Sanaë Lemoine – The Margot Affair

sanae lemoine the margot affair
Sanaë Lemoine – The Margot Affair

It has always been like this: her father would visit them every other day, sometimes they did not hear of him for weeks. But when he opened the door, he was there completely for Margot Louve and her mother Anouk. No holidays together, no show up at school events, he only belonged to their private life and for the world outside their Paris apartment, there simply was no father. Nobody knew who he was because everybody knew him. He was a public man, a well-known politician and the husband of another woman. When Margot meets a journalist, the idea of going public with their story pops up, thus forcing him to finally decide between the two lives and families. She is sure that he loves her and her mother much more than his actual wife and therefore, she sets in motion a chain of events with an outcome she would never have imagined.

Sanaë Lemoine’s story of course immediately reminds the reader of the former French president Mitterrand’s double life which he only revealed shortly before his death thus making Mazarine Pingeot suddenly one of the most famous daughters of the country. The author does not try to hide the parallels, she even mentions and integrates the real life events in her novel thus underlining also the differences between the two. Written from the daughter’s perspective, she convincingly gives the voice to a young woman full of insecurities and marked by her quite naturally limited understanding of her parents’ affair.

I totally adored the first part of the novel which focuses on Margot and her relationship with her father. She does not question her life and the fact that she can never talk about who her father is, knowing that he loves her deeply is enough for herself and the arrangements also seems to work well for her mother. When the two of them accidentally encounter her father’s wife, something in her is set in motion and it only needs a little pushing by a journalist to develop her fatal plot. She is too young to foresee the scope of her action and what the possible outcomes are.

In the second part, unfortunately, the author lost me a bit with the shift of the focus. Margot is fascinated by a woman a couple of years her senior and the journalist’s wife. Brigitte is a strong contrast to her always distanced and rather cold and controlled mother and fills some kind of emotional gap that opened in her life. For the reader it is quite obvious that she is to a certain extent lured on to destruction and falls prey to the reckless woman. Even though the development between them is well portrayed and slowly moves towards the final blow, Margot lost a bit of her charming personality for me and the reflective and thoughtful young woman turns into a naïve and emotionally dependent girl which I did not really like to follow anymore that much.

A psychologically interesting novel about relationships and emotional needs of children and their parents, but also a study of how the choices of life you make always will have an impact on other people, too.

Mads Peder Nordbo – Cold Fear

Mads Peder Nordbo – Cold Fear

After his first investigation in Greenland, Matthew Cave has remained on the Danish island. There are still a lot of questions around his family he would like to have answered. Now, the story goes back to the year 1990 when Matt’s father Tom was stationed at an American military base on Greenland to carry out revolutionary medical tests. They managed to develop a pill which could make the body support cold temperatures much longer – a definite advantage in the cold north. Yet, this did not come without side effects and then something went totally wrong. Matt thought his father had died in that spring but he has already figured out that he must have survived somehow since Matt unexpectedly has found out that he has a younger sister. When he starts to investigate what happened on that military base almost 25 years before, he suddenly hits a hornet’s nest and puts himself and his sister in danger.

I already liked the first book in the series about the Danish journalist where the basis for this second novel was laid. Where I found “The Girl Without Skin” a bit creepier and more spine-chilling, “Cold Fear” is much more a spy novel which convinced me with a complex plot and repeated moments of highest suspense. Additionally, again, Nordbo provides insight in the Greenland culture and traditions of which I hardly know anything and which I found as disturbing as interesting.

It is not easy to sum up or briefly retell what “Cold Fear” is all about, there simply is too much and this really demands all your attention while reading. The plot certainly is strongest when political and societal aspects are touched – not just since we have seen the USA repeat their claims of the island this year. As Greenland is located so far away, we are highly ignorant about the different people who settled there and especially their mutual regard or rather disregard which becomes a lot clearer while reading.

However, what enchanted me most were the characters. From a psychological point of view, it is easy to comprehend why they act the way they do and how they developed into the person we meet in the novel. Most powerful are the female characters for me since all of them grow-up under the harshest circumstances and what they have to go through does not remain without trace.

Among the masses of Scandinavian crime novel, undoubtedly one that stands out.

Catherine Ryan Howard – Rewind

Catherine Ryan Howard – Rewind

Andrew, manager of Shanamore Cottages, does not trust his eyes when he watches the camera he secretly installed in the bedroom of the cottages: his only guest has just been murdered. Yet, he surely cannot call the police but has to cope with the situation. Rewind. Strange things seem to happen in the life of influencer Natalie. However, her husband Mike does not believe her, supposedly because he himself is behind it all. He not only seems to have an affair but also wants her to believe that she has gone nuts. The key to it all seems to lie in the cottages where her obviously spent several days, so she packs her bag and spontaneously goes there. She knows immediately that this has been a mistake, the place is not only remote but more than literally abandoned in November and the people out there more than creepy. She does not know how correct her assessment of the place is and how wrong she was about the connection between this village and herself.

I have read Catherine Ryan Howard’s former novel “The Liar’s Girls” about Dublin’s Canal Killer and had liked it a lot. That’s why I was eager to read another of her thrillers and I wasn’t disappointed. Again, she starts with a murder and the reader has to figure out how this character ended up killed. “Rewind” is cleverly constructed and it takes some time to connect the dots and to make sense of it all. Yet, suspense does not decline once you see through the plot as there is still a chance that the actual culprit might simply walk away without ever being discovered and charged.

What I found strongest apart from the carefully composed plot, was the atmosphere the author creates. The small village of Shanamore really gives you the creeps only when reading about it. This place – added the time of the year, November, which is in itself often spine-chilling due to the cold and darkness – is perfect for hideous murders and you wouldn’t expect anybody else than weird and dubious characters walking around there. But also the action taking place in Dublin that makes Natalie feel increasingly hesitant and insecure about herself adds to the overall frightening ambiance of the novel.

Catherine Ryan Howard provides a lot of wrong leads that make you readjust the picture again and again and ponder how all can possibly fit into the picture. The solution is plausible and does not leave any question unanswered. “Rewind” is a perfect page-turner that I read in just one sitting since it hooked me immediately.

Jan Stocklassa – Stieg Larssons Erbe

Jan Stocklassa – Stieg Larssons Erbe

Der 28. Februar 1986 ändert vieles im schwedischen Bewusstsein: auf offener Straße wird Premierminister Olof Palme erschossen und er erliegt am Tatort den Verletzungen. Auch dreißig Jahre nach der Tat sind weder der Täter dingfest gemacht noch die genauen Geschehnisse des Tatabends geklärt. Der Journalist Jan Stocklassa stößt bei seinen Nachforschungen für ein Buch über Tatorte auf die Aufzeichnungen von Stieg Larsson, heute aufgrund der Millennium-Trilogie als Thriller-Autor weltweit bekannt, in den 80er Jahren jedoch in Schweden geschätzter Journalist und Illustrator, der sein Leben lang gegen den Rechtsextremismus anschrieb. Auch Larsson hat bis zu seinem Tod 2004 akribisch geforscht, um den Mordfall Olof Palme aufzuklären. Stocklassa nimmt die Spurensuche wieder auf und vervollständigt Larssons Vorarbeit. Am Ende bleibt die Frage offen, was die schwedische Polizei aus dem Material machen wird.

„Stieg Larssons Erbe“ ist eine detailreiche Dokumentation nicht nur der unmittelbaren Ereignisse vom 28.2.1986, sondern es beschreibt auch wichtige politische Zusammenhänge und Ereignisse, die wesentlich für die Tat sein könnten, und ebenso die geradezu erschrecken komplizierte und von Streitigkeiten geprägte Struktur des Polizei- und Juristereiapparats. Obwohl das Buch einen weitgehend dokumentarischen und beschreibenden Charakter hat, Stocklassa legt auch seine und Larssons Arbeitsweise ausführlich dar, um ihre Gedankengänge und Vorgehen nachvollziehbar zu machen, liest sich das Buch dennoch unheimlich gut und wirkt an keiner Stelle ermüdend oder gar dröge.

Sicherlich hat es einen guten, von Marketing-Gesichtspunkten geprägten Sinn, dass der Name Stieg Larssons im Titel erscheint. Für mein Empfinden verschiebt das leider etwas den Fokus und lenkt potenzielle Leser in eine falsche Richtung. Dies ist besonders schade, da es einen ausgesprochen hohen informativen Wert hat, unterhaltsam zu lesen ist und auch ohne den bekannten Namen wirken kann. „True Crime“ – ja, natürlich, aber faktisch ist es eine Aufarbeitung des Falls Olof Palme, der unheimlich komplex und dadurch enorm interessant ist. Für mich eine sehr lohnende Lektüre, da mir der Fall nur rudimentär bekannt war und ich die Hintergründe und Zusammenhänge nicht wirklich kannte. Sowohl das Vorgehen des Autors bei der Recherche war dabei für mich aufschlussreich zu lesen, aber auch die Situation des Extremismus und Terrorismus in Schweden, was mir bis dato gänzlich unbekannt war.

Fazit: ein Buch, das vor allem durch den Einblick in qualitativ hochwertige journalistische Arbeit überzeugt und für ein Sachbuch in einem hohen Maße ansprechend verfasst wurde.

Petra Reski – Palermo Connection

Petra Reski – Palermo Connection

Mutig stellt sich die sizilianische Staatsanwältin Serena Vitale der Mafia entgegen und endlich scheinen ihre Bemühungen Früchte zu tragen. Nur ihr Privatleben bleibt weiterhin chaotisch. Der deutsche Journalist Wienecke nimmt derweil Kontakt zu ihr auf, da er hofft mit einer Mafiageschichte endlich wieder sein Standing im Magazin verbessern zu können. Und tatsächlich gelingt es ihm, zu einem Mafia-Boss Kontakt aufzunehmen und eine aufsehenerregende Geschichte zu veröffentlichen. Er forscht auch über Serena Vitale nach und entdeckt dunkle Spuren in ihrer Vergangenheit.

Ich hatte mir spannende Unterhaltung und eine komplexe Mafia-Geschichte erwartet. Bekommen habe ich einen Roman, dessen roten Faden ich bis zum Ende nicht gefunden habe und der so vollgestopft mit Klischees ist, dass es bisweilen fast schmerzhaft war:

  1. Die gutaussehende Staatsanwältin, die aber eigentlich nur das liebe Frauchen spielen und geliebt werden will, andererseits aber keine Probleme hat, am selben Abend gleich mit zwei Männern ins Bett zu steigen, wobei bei Männern Intellekt egal zu sein scheint, der Körper ist das einzige, was sie interessiert – neben ihren Fingernägeln und den aufwändigen Friseurbesuchen.

  1. Der Mafia-Boss machte den Eindruck zu oft „Der Pate“ geschaut zu haben, aber nie den Charme und Haltung eines Corleones überzeugend kopieren zu können. Natürlich trifft er sich nur in Abrissbauten und Lagerhallen mit dem Journalisten – dem vorher noch ein Sack über den Kopf gezogen werden muss, damit er sich den ohnehin unbekannten Weg auf Sizilien nicht merkt. Als Deko hat er immer auch ein paar grimmig dreinschauende Leibwächter um sich herum drapiert.

  1. Die Italiener als solches scheinen nur rumzusitzen, Pizza zu essen, Kaffee zu trinken und die Mafia machen zu lassen, was sie wollen. Rechtschaffene Menschen sucht man vergeblich.

  1. Die ausgewanderten Italiener in Deutschland waschen derweil alle das Mafiageld in den hiesigen Pizzerien.

  1. Der Journalist ist eine ganz große Nummer, dass er dumm wie Brot ist und bei jedem Schritt an die Hand genommen werden muss, scheint für die Autorin nicht in Widerspruch zu stehen. Dass er sich als toller Hecht fühlt, macht ihn auch nicht sympathischer.

Die Fragmente von Handlung um Prozesse von Mafiaverbrechern bleibt völlig nebulös und ist irgendwann auch egal, weil es nur noch um den Journalisten und das Privatleben der Staatsanwältin geht. Dass ein gekränktes Männerego dann auch noch ziemlich kleinkariert Rache an der Frau nimmt, die ihn nicht so toll fand wie er sich selbst, setzt dem Ganzen dann nur noch das Macho-Kränchen auf.