Veit Heinichen, Gib Jedem Seinen Eigenen Tod (German 2001, French 2007)

TriesteAh, Trieste… It made me dream… until we were really there.

This crime novel from Heinichen is actually the first of the series, but it’s the second I read. It doesn’t really matter. I enjoyed the unique setting and the inspector Laurenti is quite a loveable character.

The plot is interesting factually, because it shows very well how mafias from many origins (I’m not saying only Italian although of course they have their share) work on the outskirts of the European Union to smuggle girls for sex trade and embezzle aid funds. Trieste is a very special place in this trafficking because of the sea routes and the many frontiers around it: Slovenia, which belongs to EU and Croatia which doesn’t yet (accession is scheduled for this year in July).

The plot itself lacked speed of execution (probably slowed down by the summer heat, characters sweat a lot in this book!) and bite under the tooth (I like my pasta and my thrillers al dente). The other book I’d read years ago was probably better in terms of plot than this one, but there’s always a sense of comfort when coming back to well-known characters, so I was in a forgiving mood.

Like I said, it didn’t quite really matter, because the book was supposed to act a bit like a tourist guidebook for our day trip to Trieste. Have you tried such thing before? Well, the least I can say is that it’s not really helpful. I might be interested to know where sex workers are so that we’d avoid the place, but for the main monuments and places loved by the locals, you have to read very very carefully. And it’s a shame that nowhere does Laurenti mention the Tourist information desk, because it would have been most helpful.

In real life, on a February weekday (very far from the summer heat of the book), we didn’t get to see many locals. They were hidden, frigidly cold behind shut windows, probably, awaiting the snow. We saw James Joyce, luckily, and he was the only one around not to hurry away wearing thick down jackets, hats, gloves and the like. The whole city shuts down from noon to four (by which daylight started to dim), so it was kind of weird. An empty city with an obvious glorious past, wealth and pride. The harbour and the steep coastline made me think of Hong Kong (yes, I know…), because of the thousands of people attracted to a small space, turning their back on the mountain and the rest of the world. It also made me think of Venice, which isn’t so far away, but with an Austrian, central European feel to it.

I’ll return soon to Trieste in books, for sure. To Heinichen, I don’t know. And to real Trieste, well, I’m intrigued, so who knows? But I’ll certainly pick a warmer season, and take a real guidebook next time around.

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