The second Studer mystery. Set in an insane asylum, the director murdered. A European classic.
Publishers WeeklyFirst published in 1936, this golden age gem contains echoes of Durenmatt, Fritz Lang's film M and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. Just as Mann's Berghof Sanatorium mirrored the schadenfreude of the world outside, so the Swiss madhouse in Glauser's psychologically wrenching Sergeant Studer novel, the second to be translated into English (after 2004's Thumbprint), darkly illuminates the anguish and disorientation of Germany between the wars. When Peter Pieterlen, a child murderer, escapes from the Randlingen Psychiatric Clinic in Bern, Dr. Ernst Laduner asks Det. Sgt. Jakob Studer to investigate. Studer soon discovers the body of Randlingen's director in the clinic's boiler room, his neck broken. Despite the clinic doctors' claim that Pieterlen killed the man, Studer has doubts that leave him wondering if someone is using pseudopsychological theories and pretenses to commit murder. Both a compelling mystery and an illuminating, finely wrought mainstream novel, this classic will make it clear to American readers why the German-language prize for detective fiction is named after Glauser (1896-1938). (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library JournalIt is the 1930s, near Bern, Switzerland, and Detective Sergeant Studer is called to a psychiatric asylum to investigate the disappearance of the director and one of the patients, a murderer. The director turns up murdered, three others die, and nothing is very clear. "Contact with people who are mentally ill is contagious," says a doctor, and Studer begins to wonder about himself. The Italian word matto means the spirit of madness, but it is increasingly unclear which is real, inside or outside the asylum. As in Georges Simenon's crime novels, Glauser examines mind more than action, the appearance that may not be reality. The German author, who died at age 42 in Switzerland, spent much time in psychiatric institutions yet clearly appreciated the irony of the coming chaos outside their walls. Published serially in 1936 but only now translated into English, this novel belongs in academic and larger public library collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsThe first English translation of a widely respected crime novel originally published as a serial in 1936. Swiss Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer, a has-been in the Bern police establishment, receives his latest assignment with mixed feelings. Though he's happy to be doing anything of an investigative nature, he's not so happy that he'll be doing it at Randlingen, an insane asylum. But he's dispatched there by his chief in response to a request from acting clinic director Dr. Ernst Laduner. Ulrich Borstli, Laduner's boss, has suddenly disappeared, and an inmate is also missing. It doesn't take long for the Randlingen community-pop. 800, including staff-to turn Studer's preconceptions upside down. He finds sanity where he least expected it and a lack of emotional stability where it's most needed. Laduner himself turns out to be charismatic and inscrutable, both a help and a hindrance to Studer's investigation. Matto means crazy in Italian, Studer reflects, and as he tries to solve the mystery of the Randlingen murders, he wonders how well he knows himself. "We're all of us murderers," Dr. Luduner warns darkly. Complex characters, a deft puzzle and an authoritative sense of place compensate for a pace slower than most modern readers are used to. It's worth noting that Glauser, a diagnosed schizophrenic, wrote most of his novel while institutionalized.
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