Thursday, January 24, 2008
Catching up with Glauser
With the fourth of Friedrich Glauser's Swiss "policier" novels now available in English and the fifth soon to come, I've gone back to catch up with the third in the series, Fever. Glauser has been called the Swiss Simenon, but his Sergeant Studer is quite different from Maigret. Studer is a loner (though more of his colleagues appear in Fever than previously), and he's a ruminative detective, reconsidering the evidence again and again. And in Fever, Glauser also adds some Sherlock Holmes into the mix, as well as some of Holmes's predecessors and competitors. Fever is in a way an adventure novel, full of clairvoyance, identity changes, an heiress and her doomed family, and so forth. The Gothic elements are carefully controlled, so that the novel is in some ways both an hommage and a parody of the detective-adventure stories of the previous century (Glauser and his Studer being from the years between the World Wars). The conclusion of Fever even suggests that this tale is the author's way of giving his character a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of the Foreign Legion (for the novel takes us from Paris to Basel to Bern and to the North African desert (with thrilling stops in between). The first two Studer books, Thumbprint and In Matto's Realm, were rather claustrophobic, set in a small town and an ominous hospital, with Studer's ruminative (rather than deductive) method adding to the sense of the stories' narrow confines. But in Fever, with the opening up of the story and its setting, Studer's method is helpful in simply keeping track of the cluttered plot (beginning with the death of two old ladies, sisters, in Basel and Bern, and with the mysterious priest who seems to be the key). And as might be expected in a tale that hovers close to parody, there is more humor in Fever than in the earlier books, and more about Studer's home life (his wife Hedy, though hardly a major character here, is a delight). Glauser was plainly enjoying himself, spreading out from the more philosophical In Matto's Realm into a more literary and comic mode. And so, eventually, on to the rest of Glauser...thanks to the U.K.'s Bitter Lemon Press.