Reading for pleasure
This month's selection of leisure reading from the Journal's Book Review Editor
Philip Kerr (Quercus: £17.99; ebook: £8.36)
This outing for Berlin detective Bernie Gunther sees him investigate the murder of a Dutch foreign worker in wartime Berlin. Gunther intervenes in what he believes is an attempted rape on a young woman, with whom he forms a close bond. Gunther is recalled to work as Reinhard Heydrich’s personal detective while the latter is Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia based in Prague. A young officer is murdered in his locked bedroom at Heydrich's villa. This occurs while Heydrich hosts major military figures. Suspicion abounds. Gunther seeks the killer. This is all set against a backdrop of searching out a Czech terrorist cell while trying to identify their informant within the German military. Kerr perceptively brings to life wartime Berlin with its cafes and clubs (much diminished since the hedonistic days of the Weimar period, described by Christopher Isherwood in Goodbye to Berlin). The book is set within historical fact and Kerr has impressively researched his characters, upon which he has built another superb vehicle for his efficacious detective.
Michela Murgia (MacLehose Press: £12)
“Accabadora” is a Sardinian word for a woman who helps people to die. The elderly Accabadora of the title, Bonaria Urrai, tries to keep her adopted daughter from finding out about her profession. When she is finally exposed, both women must come to terms with the effect this has on their relationship. This remarkable short novel has won six literary prizes in Italy. The translation, by Silvester Mazzarella, fully captures the atmosphere of village life in Southern Italy in the 1950s, and the tension between ancient customs and the inexorable march of progress.
Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström (Quercus: £12.99; ebook: £7.74)
Readers may recall the review of this Swedish duo’s first book translated into English, 3 Seconds (ebook: £4.86). This is in fact the first book they wrote, now published in English. One can understand the publisher's decision, for 3 Seconds was a truly gripping page turner. While this book is a hugely enjoyable read, it is a more languorous, thoughtful and reflective, slow burn of a book which, through its straightforward story, unravels the political relationship between Sweden and the United States, the death penalty and the so called long reach of American justice. The characters are brilliantly drawn and utterly believable, in particular Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens who, while lonely and broody, shows an unexpected lighter and humane side as he rails against authority and injustice. In particular the pathos and sympathy displayed by the police officers in their home lives as they carry out their painful duty is all too real.