Heinrich Steinfest, Nervöse fische (German, 2010)
I’ll be brief and to the point: I didn’t like this book and barely skimmed to the end. I do enjoy it when Vargas chooses a quirky main character, writes slightly absurd dialogues or situations.
But there’s a limit before it all becomes ridiculous. And this limit is highly personal (and cultural). Mr. Smithereens doesn’t enjoy Vargas’ quirky Inspector Adamsberg. And I have just discovered I don’t enjoy quirky Inspector Lukastik from Austrian police in Vienna, even though I do love Vienna.
Not everything quirky is endearing, not every oddball police inspector makes a good crime novel hero. It seems to be a literary fashion of sorts, don’t you think? As much as geeks and nerds are now in fashion, inspectors in crime novels need to have some eccentric traits to justify their cleverness in discovering the most complex cases. Boring inspectors, like for example Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s inspector Martin Beck, are now a minority in fiction, whereas I am quite sure they are closer to reality than all the Adamsbergs or Lukastiks in the world. Or am I just making this up for the sake of rants?
Here I had the feeling that the writer piled high all the most bizarre situations, to begin with a shark-eaten victim found in a swimming pool at the top of a building in Vienna, added weird people with improbable backgrounds and limited social skills and threw it all together to dazzle the readers.
Dazzled I was not, but it might be German humor, which I never really get. I felt that the writer had a lot of fun and didn’t take the plot very seriously. There were many grand allusions to Wittgenstein and to music, and I might have learnt tidbits of weird information, but… If someone else reads it, I’d be glad to know what I did miss out!
On a completely different topic, after so many years of having a rigorous rule for post titles, I was getting bored with it and decided I’m going to try an homage to Friends. I am very forgetful of names and titles in real life (no offense to anyone, it’s all my fault), and my husband is very good at guessing and remembering (he’s like a human Imdb sometimes, but a lot more fun!). I end up naming a show “the one with the delightful dresses in the huge British manor” (that would be Downton Abbey) or “the one where the cute one plays tricks and guesses the truth” (that would be The Mentalist), and same goes with books and actors and movies I’m afraid. If you find it too confusing I’ll always add the book reference in the first lines of the post as usual. If these new titles make me even more forgetful than usual, I might revert to the basics.