Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Even the murders move more slowly down here."

Resurrection, by Wolf Haas, is a charming little crime novel. That is, there's very little crime in it, it just zips along from taxicab to curling strip to castle to restaurant, and before you know it, you're halfway through when you realize, oh, right, it started with a couple of dead bodies, presumably foul play, now what's that all about?

The setting is Zell, an Austrian ski resort, but with very much a small town vibe. Inspector Simon Brenner, recently resigned from the police force, is now "investigating" (that is, writing occasional reports), this time on behalf of an insurance company.

It's been three-quarters of a year since the bodies on the ski lift, so it's not exactly an "active" investigation. Brenner's just muddling into situations.
The German had this bad habit. Purely insofar as, let's say, cars and drivers go. She always looked you right in the eye when she was talking to you. Now, normally, that's not necessarily uncomfortable. But in this case. She was hissing down the Autobahn at 130. And on top of that, well, no hands after all, even if she was a good driver, unbelievable, but still, just her two arm-stumps on the steering wheel. And when she was talking, she always took her eyes off the road and looked right at Brenner with those enormous eyes of hers. Because they were magnified so big by her farsighted glasses.

"It's quite lovely here," she says.

"Here in the tunnel?" Brenner says.

He was thinking, I'll make a joke, and if I make a joke, maybe I'll get her to look back at the road again, at least in the tunnel, because this here's a place with oncoming traffic. But, nothing doing, she didn't understand it was joke, and Brenner, of course, ready with a stereotype: Germans, no sense of humor. She looked at him with her polyp eyes and said:

"No, here in Zell."

"You don't like it in Hamburg?"

"I do. Quite lovely. Quite lovely indeed. But everything moves very fast there. Whereas here, everything's allowed to move a tiny bit — just a bisserl — more slowly."

Needless to say, we're all the same down here. We don't like it when a German imitates our dialect. And it wasn't any different for Brenner, a bisserl. And then that bit about the "slowly," practically — well, it's true, of course, but we don't like hearing it. But Handless didn't mean it quite so generally, because now she says:

"Even the murders move more slowly down here. In Hamburg, shot on the spot. And here, deep frozen."

And then, she even laughed. Brenner thought: This I don't understand, either, what's so funny about that.
This is the very first Inspector Brenner novel, but the third to be available in English. I really enjoyed Brenner and God for its wit and philosophical musing; The Bone Man was a bit madcap, and the crime seemed to bog down the story. But Resurrection is simply delightful. What little story there is moves with more agility than Brenner's migraine-addled thought processes. That may sound like a back-handed compliment, but without all those pesky crime details getting in the way, it's simple, swift, and funny.

And there's more by Wolf Haas — Come, Sweet Death — coming from Melville House soon.

(See also my recap of Wolf Haas at the Blue Met a few weeks ago.)

1 comment:

Cipriano said...

Sounds so intriguing. The last book I read with the same title was by Leo Tolstoy.
This one sounds like something I would pick up, whenever and wherever I spy its distinctive cover, in my travels. Thank you for this review, Octopus!