The always interesting Pushkin Press have reissued four Dürrenmatt crime classics (in suitably grainy dramatic covers) to pique the interest of those to whom his is a familiar name and to draw in any crime fan who wants to vary their diet with an unexpected Chef’s Surprise.  It’s not that Dürrenmatt always took the road less chosen, more that he carved out an entirely different and perverse path through the literary undergrowth.

This ‘detective novel’ is not untypical.  A well-known millionaire walks into a crowded restaurant and shoots a professor dead, then leaves, gets into his chauffeur-driven Rolls and continues to the airport – where he does not get on a plane.  Instead he delivers a snoozing fellow-passenger, gets back in the car and is taken back to town to face arrest.  He does not deny the crime, nor will he give a reason for it.  He remains calm and polite throughout and watches what transpires with an amused and detached interest.

So where’s the mystery?  That’s what, in just one of many post-modern twists, he asks a seedy detective to find out: “You are to reinvestigate my case under the presumption that I was not the murderer….You are to create a fiction, nothing more.”

Not straightforward.  But then, nor was the original crime.

The Execution of Justice

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (translated by John E Woods)

Pushkin Vertigo  paperback, £8.99, 978-1-78227-387-5



Russell James

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