Probing Friedrich Durrenmatt’s nightmare detective novel Suspicion

Friedrich Durrenmatt is surely due a latter day revival thanks to the brilliant work that Pushkin Vertigo are doing.

The publishers have brought his seldom seen novellas back into the public eye starting with his most famous work, The Pledge (which was made into the masterful screen thriller starring Jack Nicholson), following it up with the riveting moral power play The Judge and his Hangman and now comes Suspicion.

Suspicion once again features Durrenmatt’s wonderful creation Inspector Barlach – a withering, sick and vastly experienced old school detective who has a gift for passing off his calculated wisdom as a hunch. What Durrenmatt does with Barlach in Suspicion is masterful – he neglects to protect him.

This slim but unforgettable work finds Barlach at the hands of his prey – a fugitive Nazi war criminal who is operating a private clinic with his own brutal brand of medicine.

Durrenmatt often turns the detective genre on its head. Sometimes the crimes just don’t get solved. The motives aren’t always tidy. The revelations aren’t always convenient. The clues are elusive. As readers, we genuinely don’t know how the mystery will be resolved (if indeed it will at all).

Coming from the stage, Durrenmatt’s novels often have characters speaking somewhat odd verses out loud (as if his audience were at a play) which can be somewhat off-kilter. Perhaps that’s his plan all along. Suspicion is one crime fiction’s most unsettling stories. Be sure to pick it up at a bargain price from Pushkin Press. It’s out now and comes highly recommended.

Suspicion by Friedrich Durrenmatt review by Dave Lancaster for Hits the Fan blog

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