If you’ve already read the new translation of “Ulysses” and “Empuzjon” and “Magic Mountain” to make a comparison, maybe it’s time for something lighter and vacation? Jail? Fantastic? Feeling? It will be read. Let’s start with a retro crime story.
Dorothy L Sayers, A corpse in the bathtub, transl. Dorota Konowrocka-Sawa, Znak 2022
– Damn it! Lord Peter Wimsey suddenly called out to Piccadilly Circus. – Hello, driver!
Dorothy Sayers was born around the same time as Agatha Christie and is considered the viceroy of crime fiction, for example. As for story-building ability, she’s a little less than the Queen, but it’s impossible to deny her old-fashioned grace. A corpse in the bathtub this is her first book, originally published in 1923.
Meet Lord Peter, an amateur detective and a little bored aristocrat, music lover and bibliophile. Traumatized after the Great War. Bachelor education. You can fall in love with him and it’s worth it, because although he did not shy away from women, in accordance with her he bade everyone farewell and showed her generosity. He is certainly more likable than the morphinist Sherlock Holmes and the buffoon Poirot. He is already in his forties, so an author who has also written religious plays and essays will want to marry him. And he will, but not yet in this novel. Sometimes, however, he sends him to church and criticizes his overly materialistic approach to psychological problems.
Lord Peter is assisted in the investigation by his wonderful butler, endowed with a certain sense of humor. Nor can the author be denied. He is also helped by his brother-in-law from Scotland Yard and modern technology in the form of a camera.
And the riddle? A good architect goes to the bathroom in the morning and finds the corpse of an unknown man wearing only glasses in the bathtub. At the same time, he disappears from his own bedroom and leaves his clothes at home, a Jewish financier. Did he find himself in the bathtub? If not, is there anything in common between these two events? Maybe it’s too easy to guess, but you still need to figure out how and why.
Four funerals and a divorce
Adrian McKinty, Island, transl. Jan Kraśko, Agora 2022 Publishers
The raven looked at her with a skeptical yellow eye of eucalyptus split by lightning.
There was a death risk sitting there.
If he croaked, it would be after her.
I wonder if a century ago readers found detective stories like the Sayers exciting. The thrill of horror awakening? Today we definitely need much stronger stimuli and stronger impressions. These will certainly be provided by a thriller Island – very efficiently written. Let’s appreciate good craftsmanship, because it’s not a very common skill, and probably the work of editors.
Tom, a famous orthopedic surgeon, is invited to a conference in Australia. He takes his wife and two teenage children with him. A woman twenty years younger, the previous one died tragically a year earlier, perhaps he was comforted suspiciously soon after her death? He’s a bit dull, a bit of a buffoon, but basically nice. He provided his young wife with various luxuries and life stabilization, which she desperately needed.
She, Heather – who will prove to be very important – comes from a military family who, after leaving the army, lived in an artistic commune, close to nature. So their daughter has many unusual abilities. Teenage children hate her, she can’t replace their mothers for them, and the trauma after her death is treated with antidepressants and other drugs. In Australia they don’t like it at all because they still don’t see koalas.
When – a suspect from the start – a random man tells them about a small island where koalas can be found, they persuade him to take them there. The journey is also accompanied by an elderly Dutch couple, they board the ferry – the only way to get there. Sharks swim around the island and the island is home to a somewhat ruthless Irish clan that has gained independence from civilization. They produce their own electricity, have no range and never let strangers, especially the police, on their island. The head of this family clan is the mother.
Well, you already know what the task will be, although I won’t reveal why it happened. The Irish – they have guns and sniffer dogs – will want to kill the newcomers, defenseless tourists with children will have to somehow leave the island, where there are no trees or water. The island is quite small, about 15 km2† You can’t get on the ferry. Sharks in the ocean.
Impossible? Thrillers usually put heroes in such situations. But Island this isn’t the last Jams Bond movie where Bond dies at the end. I won’t cry over Craig because Roger Moore was my favorite Bond, and the castings for the new Bond are already underway. However, as you can see, you cannot rely on conventions these days. This time, however, you can – someone will survive.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that women play the most important roles in this story, because now it is.
divas. A short serial overview
Wojciech Chmielarz, Long nightMargins 2022
She awoke from a shallow nap. From outside she heard the monotonous noise of the street in Warsaw, and again she was disturbed by the fact that no one was shooting.
It was disturbing because she is a refugee, with difficult experiences. Now she’s doing sex work and someone is about to kill her. The pursuit of a man who kills sex workers is just one of the plots of this crime story, and not the main one.
Inspector Jakub Mortka, the hero of the crime series from a few years ago, has returned. Somewhat older, an ex-wife, two adult sons and a father, a retired doctor who is going back to work because of covid. Oh, because it will still be contaminated!
Mortka – which is why he was gone – now lives in The Hague and works at Europol. He is still an arrogant slut, although his French lover tries to reform him a bit. (Where have men like Lord Peter gone?) He still doesn’t follow procedures, doesn’t shy away from violence, but is intelligent and effective. And in fact he is good and emotional, although like a farmer he cannot show these emotions unless he gets nervous. So like it.
He came to Warsaw, where he conducts an informal investigation, because … This is probably the best thing about this crime story, we do not immediately recognize the reason for his arrival, hidden between the side threads. Let me just say that the main issue and issue involves three very loving gay men and homophobia.
And the woman? There must be a woman. Sub Inspector Suchecka, Sucha (not to be confused with a female dog) was Mortka’s subordinate in previous crime novels, now she was promoted and when she returned to her former position she would be his superior. After the next purges, many people leave the police, but no one will move them, consistently climbing the hierarchy. Rumor has it it’s because she slept with someone upstairs. Mortka doesn’t believe it. “You could never do that. But that probably means you’ve done something much worse, which I’m afraid of.” What could be so much worse? We can only guess. Did she sign up for PiS?