Friday, February 9, 2018

Review of Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser (1936, German; 2004 Bitter Lemon Press)

Sergeant Studer tracks down and arrests a former convict who is suspected of murdering a travelling salesman. After dropping the man off at prison and leaving, Studer returns as something is nagging at his subconscious. He finds his suspect hanging in his cell and manages to revive him. It suggests the man was guilty of the crime, but Studer is not convinced. He returns the village where the victim was shot and starts to hunt around. It’s clear that all is not well among a set of Gerzenstein’s citizens and Studer’s presence is not wanted. When his initial suspect confesses, the case seems to be closed. But the canny sergeant is a master at solving difficult cases.

Published in 1936 Thumbprint was the first in five Sergeant Studer novels written by the troubled Fredrich Glauser, who spent much of his life as an addict and in-and-out of prison or psychiatric wards, plus a couple of years in the French Foreign Legion. His unsettled personal life, however, is not evident in this assured and well-plotted tale of murder and conspiracy. Sergeant Studer used to be a promising inspector until he refused to drop a politically charged case. Now he works in the canton of Bern as an ordinary policeman, but he’s still blessed with good observational and deductive reasoning skills. And he knows how to unsettle people and prompt them into acting rashly – though sometimes they don’t respond as expected, which is almost the undoing of his investigation in this case. In this outing, Studer is investigating what seems like an open-and-shut case involving the death of a travelling salesman from a village. Despite the evidence he has an inkling that something is awry and seeks to find the truth and the real killer. As well as Studer, the strength of the tale is the quite complex puzzle and the show-not-tell voice. An interesting story that has aged well.

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