From Publishers Weekly
First 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.)
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*Starred Review* The second Sergeant Studer mystery was first published in 1936, and the German crime-fiction award was named for its author. It's hard to get more old school than that, which is why it's surprising to discover that Glauser's tale of murder at an insane asylum (finally appearing in English) has such a contemporary feel. As Studer investigates the director's murder and a child killer's escape, the savvy Swiss detective engages in a subtle test of wills with the assistant director, Ernst Laduner. While the doctor espouses progressive views about treating and even curing patients, his unorthodox methods result in high body counts, and he has much to gain from his supervisor's death. But Studer is strangely drawn to Laduner and seeks to shield him even as damning evidence seems to mount. Meanwhile, a true madman, heard only in snatches over the radio, spreads his insanity from nearby Germany. As Laduner wryly notes, "Had he had a psychiatric examination at the beginning of his career, perhaps the world might look a little different today." The first English translation of this atmospheric novel is no less satisfying for being so long overdue. Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved