I belong to an online bookclub, two actually, although I'm probably more active in one than the other. It's great for keeping up with what's currently out there in the realms of crime, murder and mystery. Belonging to a bookclub is also a nice way to stay connected to other human beings who often, though not always, share similar tastes to mine. I often spend many hours each day
working alone and these connections have become increasingly important to me. Don't get me wrong, there's no substitute for taking a coffee with a real-live pal.
I'd heard the book mentioned some weeks ago in the bookclub and thought the description sounded interesting:
Dr Martin Gänsewein works as a coroner in a Cologne Morgue. Martin, a shy, diligent man who wears a duffle coat, is respectful and thoughtful of women, drives a 2CV, is one day shocked to hear one of the subjects he is performing an autopsy on, speak to him. The ghost is a small time car thief called Pasha who discovered himself suddenly murdered by an assailant he didn't actually see. Pasha assumes that he is still hanging round the earth until his murderer is brought to justice and only then can his soul find peace. None of this is either new or original but then what is? It is definitely the tense relationship between these two very different characters that actually makes the book work. The friction between the high-idealed, conscientious Martin trying to cope and hold his own against the brash and highly abrasive, politically incorrect views of Pasha, who is also the book's narrator makes for great
entertainment. You get the feeling the author is having a lot of fun, and although we feel sympathy for Martin and
the 'pond life' he is forced into putting up with, the book's darkest pleasure often comes from observing the dreadful things Pasha does to Martin in order to get him to comply with his aims.
However, it isn't just a one-way exchange, and there is more to this developing relationship. I particularly enjoyed the way the noble Martin affects Pasha, who quite rightly has occasion to feel ashamed of himself and makes an effort to
improve eg by using less coarse language - of course, always taking the trouble to tell us what he might have said if he hadn't been trying to better himself. The crime and its solution take second place to the relationship between the two main characters. I personally did not have a problem with this.
The book has been translated from German, on the whole quite well, although occasionally a word or phrase stuck out as the kind of choice only a non-native speaker would make. However, the translation is eminently readable and the book certainly flows and has a good pace. If you're looking for a weekend read that's unchallenging, good-natured fun, then you may enjoy this. I certainly did. I'll be keeping an eye open for the next in the series.