IN OTHER WORDS....
TRANSLATED FROM OTHER LANGUAGES
by Doris Cassiday
The Missing File, by D. A. Mishani (HarperCollins) opens in the office of Inspector Avraham Avraham. “Do you know why there are no detective novels in Hebrew?” he asks the woman sitting across from him. The question seems irrelevant except to know Inspector Avraham is a fan of crime fiction.
Actually the woman, Hannah Sharabi, is at the police station to report her son Ofer didn’t come home from school and is missing. Inspector Avraham assures her that “regular kids don’t just disappear.” He advises her to go home, check Ofer’s computer, and call his friends. Avraham doesn’t use his keyboard to put any of this conversation in his computer instead he uses pen and paper to jot down a few notes.
The narrative now switches to Ze’ev, a neighbor. The police who come the next day to gather
information from the tenants in the Sharabi building do not linger with their questions to Ze’ve who is ready to elaborate since he tutored the boy in English. Ze’ve discovers his wife reported hearing arguing in the Sharabi apartment before Ofer disappeared.
Since Ofer is still missing, Inspector Avraham realizes he hasn‘t really gathered sufficient information and doesn’t really know the characters involved – Ofer, mother, father who is away on a cargo ship to Trieste.
When an anonymous call is received the neighbors are asked to help search the area where the caller indicates something might be found. Ze’ve joins the group but he is “the only man on the construction site who knew they wouldn’t find anything.”
Avraham receives an official answer from the security service to the question posed to Ofer’s mother: “The police in Israel are responsible for trivial investigations that no one would bother reading or writing a book about, and because most of the police investigator’s aren’t particularly bright. The Shin Bet handles the important investigations.”
Ze’ve is a budding writer and Ofer’s disappearance piques his interest. Suddenly there are letters purportedly from Ofer received. Ze’ve becomes a key suspect especially due to his close relationship with Ofer as a private tutor.
Mishani cleverly creates a suspenseful mystery with a satisfying conclusion for a procedural novel true to the genre as translated by Steven Cohen from the Hebrew. Hopefully, Investigator Avraham Avraham will soon have another case to solve.
Alex (MacLehose), Pierre Lemaitre’s procedural is a spellbinder that leaves you with a lingering scene of a naked woman in a wooden crate, which is hoisted above a concrete floor of an abandoned warehouse, and rats . . .
Alex is a very attractive woman of thirty intrigued with wigs that can alter looks and personality. Shopping for a wig she notices a man of about fifty who seems to be following her. A little old, but then men of all ages seem to be attracted to Alex. After trying on wigs, she treats herself to dinner at a restaurant where a young man eyes her appreciatively. Alex leaves the restaurant, waves a bus away and begins walking to her apartment. Suddenly a white van pulls in front of her. The man she remembers from the shop window now confronts her, hits her, and throws her into the van.
The scene shifts to Commandant Camille Verhœven who is assigned this kidnapping case as reported to the police by an eye witness. Camille is sensitive about his height – four feet eleven -- and reluctant to take on the case because it brings memories of his wife who was kidnapped and when found was dead. However, Camille is known as “a razor blade.” From experience he realizes speed is essential to find the woman but there is little evidence to follow-up, the woman is unknown, no one has reported her missing—nothing!
Camille ponders how it must have gone down as he walks to his apartment. The kidnapper knew where she lived? The kidnapper followed her? The kidnapper waited until she got to the spot where the abduction takes place? Accordingly Camille decides that a cul-de-sac would be the right place to wait. He finds the area and notices that there are two cameras focused on a pharmacy. Immediately he wakes up the pharmacist and they view the films taken that evening. Finding a picture of the van is just the information needed to move the case forward: locate the van, locate the owner, and find the kidnapper. Or, do they? The police circle the building, the van appears, driver jumps down, rushes over to a railing above a highway, and flips himself over to the cars below. End of possible abductor.
Lemaitre doesn’t forget Alex as she remains suspended in the cage with little nourishment, cold, frantic and rats threatening to launch an attack. She has no sense of time, or how long she has been constrained. Before she begins losing her mind she thinks of her brother. There would be no help there, because she knows “he despises her.”
Without the kidnapper, more intensive police work must be done to find the woman. All the while Camille senses there is something different about this abducted woman. His prediction will be verified as her past unfolds at a brisk pace.
Lemaitre’s Alex, translated by Frank Wynne, is carefully plotted with surprises along the way to keep the reader eager to turn the next page. It becomes another contender for best crime novel from the French noir writers.
A geological research company, Berg Technology, trying to establish a Greenland outpost recruits a team from Iceland to set things up in The Day is Dark (Minotaur Books), by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton. As the story opens the task is not going well. A woman geologist has disappeared. Two men are presumed to be holding the operation together, since all other employees refuse to return after a break. Further, communication has completely broken down.
Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, Icelandic lawyer is asked to join a group to investigate the happenings in this snow-covered landscape at the tip of Greenland. To prepare for the task Thóra is given several files. The most foreshadowing one is a video of a man struggling on the floor, legs askew, and muffled, pounding sounds in the background as if dismemberment is in progress.
There are several characters in the story but only one member of the team is acquainted with Berg Technology, in fact she knew the woman who disappeared. Her information, the communication system, and the employees who wouldn’t return are valuable. Bones are found in desk drawers and it is unknown where they came from, or their identity with any of the missing persons.
Cadavers are found buried in the snow and there are questions as to the cause of their deaths -- poison, infection? The bodies were not those of the missing workers.
There is no help from the residents of this forsaken land and most of the residents refuse to cooperate with the group from Iceland. Thóra is able to break through with the woman who has a telephone – the only means of getting word out, if necessary. The woman speaks a little Danish and Thóra remembers just enough Danish from her early school days to converse.
Aside from the cold and snow, there is high alcoholism in the village. The author doesn’t overlook the extensive alcoholism situation in town and also within the group of employees who refused to return.
The story sags a bit in the middle but picks up when there is more interaction with the residents and police who are finally contacted. In fact, focus on the old hunter Igimaq and his dogs heighten interest.
The plot is complicated but the bitter cold, snowy landscape and the residents who survive in the dark, isolated snow-scape gives the story an impressive tone. Since Greenland is not often the scene for a crime story, The Day is Dark leaves a chilling memory.
Reprinted from Border Patrol, IACW/NA newsletter
© 2014, used by permission