Sascha Arango: The Truth and Other Lies
Translated by Imogen Taylor
Henry wakes up on his thirty-sixth birthday in the bed of a new acquaintance named Martha, and quietly gathers his clothing to make his escape. He has a habit of sleeping with strangers and disappearing with their cash, but this time he finds a manuscript and starts reading. From the very first sentence, Henry senses that the author is telling his story: a thriller about a man with no emotional attachments and a dark secret. Instead of sneaking out, Henry cooks breakfast for Martha and immediately moves in. Martha seems quite content with the new arrangement and allows him to send her manuscript to a publisher. Her only condition is that everything should appear in his name.
Eight years later, Henry is enjoying fame and fortune as the author of a string of bestsellers. He and Martha are a productive partnership: Henry charms everyone with his winning manners and good looks, while she writes in private. In their own way, they are happy. But now Henry is sitting in a car with his glamorous lover Betty, and right before him is a harbinger of doom: an ultrasound image of an amphibious creature staring at him malevolently from one eye. The news of his fatherhood threatens to wreck his marriage, deprive him of his future income, and expose him as a fraud. His first thought is to engineer a fatal car crash, but Betty is in the driving seat and he would have to swap places: he spares her – for the moment. But then Martha vanishes unexpectedly and Henry is obliged to cover up her disappearance. Only one chapter is missing from her latest manuscript and Martha has left a handwritten note: Can you guess how it ends?
Henry is a murderous sociopath who manipulates everyone around him – including us. The police are after him, a stalker is trailing him, and the publisher wants the final chapter, but he manages to stay one step ahead, deflecting suspicion through charm, misdirection and lies. After numerous darkly comic reversals, Henry leads a police officer to the original crime scene, but how much should we believe of his story? And what really happened to Martha? This twisty thriller is enormous fun.
Text Publishing, 2015, 240 pp.
About the Author
Sascha Arango is best known as a screenplay writer. His television work includes episodes of Tatort, a long-running German crime series. The Truth and Other Lies is his first novel.
About the Translator
Imogen Taylor lives in Berlin and works as a translator and academic. She recently won the Goethe-Institut Award for New Translations.
The Krimi or Kriminalroman can take many forms from thriller to police procedural. This month we take a look at two books that are part of multi-volume series. Snow White Must Die is the fourth novel and first English-language translation of Nele Neuhaus’s detective series starring Kirchhoff and Bodenstein of the Tanus police. Neuhaus sets her books in rural Germany, but the backdrop of Jan Costin Wagner’s series is Finland. The series begins with Ice Moon and unfolds in a wintry landscape of mystery and melancholy. Light in a Dark Room is the most recent instalment in English.
Snow White Must Die
Tr. Steven T. Murray
Pan MacMillan, 2013
Thirty-year-old convicted murderer Tobias Sartorius has just been released from prison. Back in his home village, he finds that his parents’ marriage has collapsed: Tobias has always protested his innocence but he was drunk at the time of the killing, and no one knows what to believe. When his mother is injured in suspicious circumstances, Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff and Superintendent Oliver von Bodenstein are sent to investigate, and some grisly truths are unearthed.
Light in a Dark Room
Jan Costin Wagner
Tr. Anthea Bell
Harvill Secker, 2014
Detective Kimmo Joentaa is called into the hospital where a dead woman’s sheets are wet with her killer’s tears. Joentaa’s wife died in the very same hospital and the strange case of the weeping murderer forces him to confront his own grief. Meanwhile, the darkness is drawing in over the Finnish landscape, and people are disappearing. The key seems to lie with a diary from the 1980s and an enigmatic woman named Larissa with whom Joentaa has formed a deep bond.
Text: Sally-Ann Spencer
Copyright: Goethe-Institut New Zealand, 2016