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This autumn will be hot – here you can find exciting page-turners for cold days and strong nerves.

Portrait of: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Nigerian femme fatale

One sister murders, the other eliminates the traces and comments grimly on the events. Oyinkan Braithwaite's thriller is witty, biting, and more than simply an entertaining debut.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Oyinkan Braithwaite

© Studio 24

Oyinkan Braithwaite's book is special in many ways. For one, stories from Lagos are rare. Or the way she caricatures the Nigerian middle class: with its macho and obtuse "mama's boys". Moreover, this debut is anything but a classic investigative thriller, the title alone betrays the perpetrator: "My Sister, the Serial Killer". Her crimes are not solved, but covered up.
The perpetrator is Ayoola, a sex bomb who prefers to kill with a knife, her late father's favourite belonging. Of course, a lot of blood flows, and her sister Korede has to wield cleaning agents and bleach to deal with the mess.

While the cover up annoys her, she is very efficient at it, even disposing of the corpses in a river without anyone noticing. Then Ayoola bewitches the doctor with whom her sister Korede, a hard-working nurse, has fallen in love. This time the sister conflict threatens to escalate: Korede refuses to clean up after Ayoola. She’s done with being the unseen Cinderella: so organised, but unlikable, because she lashes out at everyone with the charm of a sergeant.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Meine Schwester, die Serienmörderin

Injustice swept under the carpet
A new face, a fresh approach: the book has already caused a sensation in the English-speaking world. The 32-year-old author studied creative writing and law at Kingston, worked in a Nigerian publishing house and a production company, and now lives as a freelance author in Lagos. Her debut was nominated for the Booker Prize and the Women's Prize, and won the Los Angeles Times Prize for Best Thriller. A film adaptation is in the works.
Full of wit and told with a light touch, the work is at first an amusing read, but has more up its sleeve than an entertaining spin. Because this is not just about the current murders. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the real linchpin of the story, what’s behind the ultimately unshakable sister solidarity, lies in the family’s past: in injustice that never came to light and was never atoned for, but that has an afterglow, and has the sisters firmly in its grip.

Text: Sabine Schmidt

Oyinkan Braithwaite: My Sister, the Serial Killer
Translated into German by Yasemin Dinçer.
Blumenbar, 240 pages, 20.00 €

Book Recommendation

Lewis Carroll’s secret

Guillermo Martínez’s Oxford-based crime novel is a highlight for readers interested in Alice in Wonderland – and for the fantasy story’s author.

Just as eccentric as the tea party in "Alice in Wonderland", this crime novel offers us the Lewis Carroll Brotherhood. Of course, they are active in Oxford, the place where Lewis Carroll did his work as a mathematician – and spent his free time with children, such as Alice Liddell. She inspired him in the early 1860s to write the story that would soon thereafter make him famous. But he was also together with other children, enjoying the company of five- or six-year-old girls, whom he lasciviously staged – barely dressed or naked – and immortalised with the help of the new art of the time, photography.
These images have long been the subject of controversy. Some say that Lewis Carroll was a paedophile who acted out his inclinations through the pictures, perhaps going even further. His fans, on the other hand, speak of art that should not be judged in a bourgeois, moralistic way.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Der Fall Alice im Wunderland

What is art allowed to do?
The mathematician Guillermo Martínez takes up this controversy in his second thriller about the professor Arthur Seldom and a doctoral student from Argentina. This time, murders take place in the milieu of the fictional Lewis Carroll Brotherhood, which of course has nothing to do with any living eccentrics or real glory-obsessed academics – even though the Argentinean crime writer spent two years of his doctoral studies at Oxford.

"The Oxford Brotherhood" is an understated, almost action-free book, which is exciting in a quiet way. Martínez does not take a position: he weaves his story around Lewis Carroll’s photographs of children, but does not reveal the opinion to which he himself gravitates. The special thing about this mystery thriller is that it opens up a space for thinking: about what paedophilia means or can mean; about the question of what art is allowed to do, or what limits should be set on it; and about the question of what form of attention is good for children, and which boundaries should under no circumstances be crossed.

Text: Sabine Schmidt

Guillermo Martínez: The Oxford Brotherhood
Translated into German by Angelika Ammar.
Eichborn, 320 pages, 16.00 €

3 Reading tips

Late Show

Michael Connelly: Late Show
Translated into German by Sepp Leeb.
Kampa Verlag, 432 pages, 19.90 €

Michael Connelly: Late Show
Translated into German by Sepp Leeb.
Kampa Verlag, 432 pages, 19.90 €

Reassigned for disciplinary reasons to the most arduous night shift in all of Los Angeles – but it isn’t the late-night hours that wear most on patrol officer Renée Ballard. The worst part is that she has to hand her cases over to her day-shift colleagues for them to solve. And she finds herself wrapped up in crimes that she believes the others really don't care about. “Late Show” by best-selling author Michael Connelly kicks off a new series as a classic police thriller that first and foremost lives from its protagonist: from her integrity, and the aura of the lonesome, tough heroine.

Ragnar Jónasson: Insel

Ragnar Jónasson: Insel
(English: Island)
Translated into German by Kristian Lutze.
btb, 384 pages, 15.00 €

Ragnar Jónasson: Insel
(English: Island)
Translated into German by Kristian Lutze.
btb, 384 pages, 15.00 €

As remote as it gets: four people on an island with only a handful of sheep. An island without even a boat dock, but it does have overwhelming stillness and natural beauty. That is the scene of the second murder in this detective story – ten years after the first, in an isolated summer house, where there is nothing and nobody, only a nearby hot spring. Iceland with its quiet, fascinating landscapes plays a central role in this book, the second volume featuring Commissar Hulda Hermannsdóttir, in which not only the suspects, but also the investigator have to struggle to come to terms with their lives.

Sara Paretsky: Altlasten

Sara Paretsky: Altlasten
(English: Fallout)
Translated into German by Laudan & Szelinski.
Ariadne, 544 pages, 24.00 €

Sara Paretsky: Altlasten
(English: Fallout)
Translated into German by Laudan & Szelinski.
Ariadne, 544 pages, 24.00 €

Back in the 1980s, Sara Paretsky created one of the first strong female leads to go up against Miss Marple in the world of mystery novels: V.I. Warshawski, private eye from Chicago. Especially noted for her dry, bitter sense of humour and marked self-irony. In her latest case, she has to leave her comfort zone in Chicago and investigate a case in Kansas. Racism is the central theme, along with small-town secrets that are supposed to have been swept under the rug, but naturally the detective manages to kick up a cloud of dust. Even 40 years later, Paretsky remains a unique voice, offering not only interesting, complex cases, but a wittiness that is still in a class of its own.

Texts: Sabine Schmidt

Interview with: Zoë Beck

When algorithms rule our lives

Germany in the not-too-distant future: Frankfurt as a megacity where people are fully cared for, but where they are also thoroughly monitored. In the nightmarish dystopian thriller “Paradise City” Zoë Beck casts light on the dark side of this brave new world.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Zoe Beck

© Victoria Tomaschko Suhrkamp Verlag

In your thriller, a pandemic has totally changed the face of Germany – but you developed this story before anyone saw Covid-19 coming. What brought you to this idea?
Zoë Beck: I had certainly never considered the current pandemic even though the experts I had been consulting with for research purposes repeatedly expressed their opinion that a new virus outbreak was due at any time now. I had imagined something more like a mass epidemic, multi-resistant bacteria, but also some form of flu virus.

Your thriller centres on a journalist who works for one of the last non-government news agencies. What sort of future do you envision for her?
I wanted to create a world in which the environmental conditions have changed, and as a result also the infrastructure, housing, health, nutrition, and how we travel. The population has decreased by 40 to 50 percent over today's numbers. Most of all, I wanted to show what happens when we ignore facts, and when independent reporting no longer plays a role. When scientific research remains shrouded in secrecy and nobody seems to care about it.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Paradise City

Zoë Beck: Paradise City
Suhrkamp, 280 pages, 16.00 €

A central motif in your work is a health app. Why are you critical of this app in contrast to Germany's current Corona app?
The Corona app does not report personal information and its use is entirely voluntary. The health app in my story monitors your body, gives instructions on how to behave while transferring data, resulting in people being sent medications or summoned to a doctor's appointment.

But there are advantages to no longer having to worry about one's health…
But ethical questions also arise. For example, you cannot just blow off work for a day, and if you get sick you can no longer decide how to deal with your own illness even if you are not endangering anyone. And there are serious questions about determining the limits of when life is no longer worth living.

Interview: Sabine Schmidt

Focus on: A mixed bag of nerve-tinglers

From offbeat to decidedly political

Excitement is definitely part of the genre, but thrillers and detective novels also thrive on criminal intrigue. While classic police and detective cases remain as popular as ever, authors often want to emphasise other aspects – and they are doing an outstanding job of it.

Cool, tight, noir – Frank Göhre set the bar for German crime novels years ago, and returns to do so again after a ten-year hiatus with “Verdammte Liebe Amsterdam” (Amsterdamned Love): a dead body at a motorway rest stop, a 15-year-old runaway, gangs and pimps in the capital of The Netherlands. Tersely written in a language that concentrates on key elements – this is a crime novel that sensationally portrays facets of modern life.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Verdammte Liebe Amsterdam

Frank Göhre: Verdammte Liebe Amsterdam (English: Amsterdamned Love)
CulturBooks, 168 pages, 15.00 €

In contrast, Dirk Kurbjuweit leads us back to the future, to Hanover in the 1920s. In his historic detective novel “Haarmann”, the “Spiegel” author recalls the crime spree of the serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Kurbjuweit takes us back to the days of the Weimar Republic: a fledgling democracy still reeling from the physical and moral effects of the First World War.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Haarmann

Dirk Kurbjuweit: Haarmann
Penguin, 320 pages, 22.00 €

Speaking out against racism
From the other side of the Atlantic, American author Attica Locke addresses the topic of racism in her crime novels. She wrote “Heaven, My Home” before Donald Trump became President. Now her book is out in German translation – and really hits a major nerve and a burningly relevant issue in the USA.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Heaven, my home

Attica Locke: Heaven, My Home
Translated into German by Susanna Mende. Polar, 338 pages, 22.00 €

German politics are the focus of interest for Horst Eckert, who presents us an interesting cast of characters. In the thriller “Im Namen der Lüge” (In the Name of Lies) we once again meet his Düsseldorf Commissar Vincent Veih, whose mother was an RAF terrorist. We are introduced to Melia Khalid, a protagonist with Somali roots and head of the Domestic Intelligence Unit. Their first case centres on right-wing and left-wing violence, as well as the national intelligence service and the question of where and when they turn a blind eye.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Im Namen der Lüge

Horst Eckert: Im Namen der Lüge (English: In the Name of Lies)
Heyne, 576 pages, 12.99 €

Emma Viskic’s follow-up book about a deaf private investigator is titled “And Fire Came Down”. The Australian author concentrates not only on solving crimes but on the hero's handicap, and subsequently about language and understanding.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung No Sound

Emma Viskic: No Sound – Die Sprache der Opfer
Translated into German by Ulrike Brauns. (English: And Fire Came Down) Piper, 336 pages, 15.00 €

And now something completely different: “Leichen, die auf Kühe starren” (Corpses Who Stare at Cows), the most recent Alpine crime novel from Tatjana Kruse. Witty, off-beat, and playful, the notorious “Queen of Crimedy” takes a swipe at everybody and everything: from fans of German Schlager star Hansi Hinterseer to social life in the Alpine town of Kitzbühel. Another example of the highly varied thriller genre.

Text: Sabine Schmidt

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Spannung Leichen, die auf Kühe starren

Tatjana Kruse: Leichen, die auf Kühe starren
Ein rabenschwarzer Alpenkrimi. (English: Corpses Who Stare at Cows a Pitch-Black Alpine Mystery) Haymon, 288 pages, 12.95 €