'WHEN a hotel dinner to celebrate Sgt Studer's daughter's wedding is interrupted by murder, the owner asks the sergeant to investigate. A man has been found with a sharpened bicycle wheel spoke embedded in his back. The man who runs the nearby bicycle repair shop is quickly arrested - but it can't be that straightforward, surely. Otherwise Friedrich Glauser's The Spoke (£8.99, Bitter Lemon) wouldn't be much of a whodunnit. In fact, the book is something of a European crime classic, although this is its first publication in English. Written in 1937, a few months before Glauser's death at the age of 42, it is the fifth to feature his laconic detective, Sgt Studer. Property speculation, loan sharks and betrayed love all play a part in a tightly-written, old-fashioned mystery. Glauser has been dubbed "the Swiss Simenon" - despite being born in Vienna - and it's easy to see why. Studer is very reminiscent of Maigret, using brain rather than brawn and relying heavily on intuition. There are no car chases or shoot-outs, no grisly details of the wounds or post-mortem. Like Maigret, Studer is middle-aged, methodical, has a happy home life and has seen everything in a long police career. His young, and rather naive, sidekick has just married Studer's daughter.Glauser enjoys something of a cult status in European crime writing. He was a morphine and opium addict for much of his life and began writing crime novels while an inmate at a Swiss insane asylum. He also spent two years with the Foreign Legion in north Africa.If this is your first introduction to Glauser's work, it will leave you keen to explore his other Studer books, including In Matto's Realm and Thumbprint.' - Newham and Ilford Recorder
'I've received a copy of the latest novel from that excellent publisher of Eurocrime, Bitter Lemon Press. The Spoke, by Friedrich Glauser, is the fifth and final book featuring the determined Sergeant Studer. It follows Thumbprint, In Matto's Realm, Fever and The Chinaman. I like Glauser's work, which is clear, thoughtful and a bit different. The fact that the books are short is also no bad thing in these days of hefty best-sellers which, for all their merits, are alarmingly time-consuming to read. I'd never even heard of Glauser before Thumbprint first appeared; thanks to Bitter Lemon, he has now become much better known in the UK than ever before.Glauser gave his name, according to the biographical note, to Germany's most prestigious crime fiction award. He was Swiss, born in Austria and is known as 'the Swiss Simenon'. But his life was evidently extraordinary: 'Diagnosed a schizophrenic, addicted to morphine and opium, he spent much of his life in psychiatric wards, insane asylums and, when he was arrested for forging prescriptions, in prison. He also spent two years with the Foreign Legion in North Africa after which he worked as a coal miner and a hospital orderly.' And he died at the age of 42, a few days before he was to marry. So - not a conventional existence and presumably for much of the time a very unhappy one.
Yet out of all those troubles, he fashioned novels which have stood the test of time. The Spoke, which is translated by Mike Mitchell, was first published in 1937. The eponymous spoke comes from a bicycle wheel and has been filed to a point at one end. It makes an appearance on the first page of the novel, stuck in the body of a dead man. The mood of the opening pages is dark, and surprisingly modern, far removed from the country houses and tennis parties of so many of the whodunits being written in England at the time.' - doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com
'Psychoanalysis may cure hysteria, but can it solve murder? Friedrich Glauser's 1937 novel The Spoke, though set in Switzerland, betrays the strong influence of it's author's fellow Austrian, Sigmund Freud. The story is constructed along the lines of a psychoanalytical case study: a scene of domestic tranquility is jolted by a symptom of hidden dysfunction as Sergeant Studer discovers a grisly murder at his daughters wedding. Stepping outside the family romance, Studer and his new son-in-law delve into the dense web of desire latent in a n idyllic country inn. They encounter a number of neurotics-a paralysed tyrant of an inn-keeper and his long-suffering wife, a woman who throws herself at everyman she meets, and a secretary too timid to address anyone face to face. We see these psychological types through Studer's analytical eyes, catching brief but telling glimpses of their repressed passions and injuries.
Studer's breakthrough comes thanks to an act of self-analysis, in an atmospheric set piece, "Reflections in a Graveyard ". Glauser takes us into Studer's feverish mind as the inspector interprets his own dreams and unearths half-forgotten memories. Like Freud, Studer tries to create a coherent narrative from information that seems simultaneously too incomplete and too abundant. He puzzles over the fragmentary and overdetermined facts, and arrives at a solution in which-as so often in psychological case studies-guilt is shared, motives are conflicted and the cure entails a confrontation with one's own desires.
If Glauser's scenario of a murder in an isolated country house now seems clichéd, and his solution, the revelation of an international monetary fraud, strains credibility, his vivid characters and engaging analysis maintain suspense. As with Freudian case studies, it is not the reconstruction of trauma that compels, but the process of uncovery. Glauser has an eye for pathology, perhaps the result of his own extended stays in mental hospitals (he died in 1938), and he creates unsettling characters that transcend the flimsy whodunit narrative. The Spoke is the fifth and final Sergeant Studer mystery to be translated into English (deftly, by Mike Mitchell) and published by Bitter Lemon Press; we are lucky to have these fascinating documents of an uncanny mind.' - Times Literary Supplement
'Bitter Lemon Press performs an invaluable service by making foreign language crime fiction available in English. They've opened the door for many worthy authors whose work would otherwise be unknown to a large audience of crime fiction readers. Bitter Lemon's most fascinating find, by far, is Swiss author Friedrich Glauser, author of the Sergeant Studer novels. Glauser, who wrote in German, was a junkie, a jail inmate, member of the foreign legion and a mental patient. He started writing novels in an asylum and was a prolific letter writer. Unfortunately, there is very little biographical information about him in English, which makes him something of an enigma. His novels, including the latest to be translated by Mike Mitchell, The Spoke (Bitter Lemon Press, 2008), are conventional detective stories up until the point that they're not. Studer, who is laconic and rational, also depends on dreams to guide him and sees nothing strange about it. It is also true that it is seldom the dead who are the real victims.As with The Chinaman, the real victims in The Spoke are the living. The novel finds the marriage of Studer's daughter interrupted by the discovery of a murder at the hotel where the wedding party is staying. Complicating matters is the fact that Studer's first love is married to the hotel's consumptive owner. What at first appears to be an open-and-shut case of murder over a woman turns into something more complicated when Studer starts questioning the shady characters hanging around the hotel. Studer's patient interrogations and his innate skepticism get him ever closer to the truth, and when he finally arrives the crimes surrounding the murders loom larger than the deaths.
Glauser is not to be missed. The Spoke is the final novel in his Sergeant Studer series, and also the last to be translated into English. Start with Thumbprint, the first in the series and go from there. Glauser is an author worth getting to know.' - Indiecrime
'Glauser's creation, the crime and mystery-investigating Sergeant Studer, sets the standard for all the cranky, morally-incorruptible, cigar-smoking, and promotion-avoiding (demotions taken) police detectives in crime fiction. He is irascible, fed-up, impatient with everyone and everything but his case and his process of fitting of all the details into place until the solution appears -- voila! -- and suddenly everything is perfectly clear. Glauser is an artist with his detective, the supporting characters, the setting of a provincial town in the Swiss hinterland, and the unraveling of the mystery worked like Swiss clockwork, precise and right on time.' - www.readallday.org
An opium addict who began his crime writing career in an asylum, Friedrich Glauser is renowned as "the Swiss Simenon". His five novels featuring the lugubrious Sergeant Studer are centred in Bern, but they also reflect the preoccupations of the Vienna where Glauser was born in 1896 - psychology, science and the end of empires. This last Studer mystery was first published in 1937, with a backdrop of financial skullduggery born from the First World War and a sense of foreboding about the future. A murder puts an end to celebrations at Studer's daughter's wedding. The victim is a guest at the hotel owned by the policeman's childhood friend Anni; a sharpened bicycle spoke the weapon. While the local constabulary make an obvious arrest, Studer suspects the dead man is part of a sinister web, involving the hotel maid, Anni's invalid husband, his secretary and a snooping private detective. When the latter drinks a Vermouth meant for Studer and becomes the next corpse, the sergeant uses all his wiles to bag the real killer. His methods are unorthodox but Studer's weary humanity confirms the impression his creator was dangerously sane. - The Guardian
'When it was first published in 1937, THE SPOKE was seen as the latest edition in Friedrich Glauser's series of eccentric detective stories featuring Sergeant Studer. Unfortunately, Glauser's untimely death meant that THE SPOKE was the last Studer mystery he produced. The last and perhaps one of the best.
Beginning with a murder by bicycle spoke, followed in quick succession by the arrest of an eccentric mechanic/farm animal rescuer and the poisoning of a piano player in mid-dirge in the hotel lounge, the wedding of Sergeant Studer's daughter to a local cop is anything but a serene family celebration. Mother and bride are swiftly dispatched home to Bern while Studer and his new son-in-law begin the investigation.
Glauser is notorious for his addictions and stays in mental hospitals but his Studer novels are oddball without being crazy. Studer is unique, an honest cop whose unorthodox methods have gotten him demoted from Chief Inspector to Detective Sergeant, but who is still the one called on to solve the truly bizarre crimes. He's an intuitive detective who does some of his best work while asleep and dreaming or sitting in a cemetery smoking a strong Italian cigar. THE SPOKE highlights his skills and showcases Glauser's talent for seeing the ordinary in a new and disturbing light.' - Iloveamystery
'Detective Sergeant Studer of the Bern police is enjoying his daughter's wedding meal at a hotel in the countryside when it's rudely interrupted by the discovery of a body, a man murdered with a bicycle spoke. Handily, the owner of a bicycle shop with a reason to dislike the dead man is soon arrested - but Studer thinks there's more to it than that and can't resist staying on to investigate, partly because the hotel is owned by his own childhood sweetheart and her husband. This mystery was written by Glauser in the 1930s, and the politics and recent economic slump are vital elements of the story, but apart from that it still feels modern, with twists and turns, mysterious characters and secret relationships and even a ghost who haunts the hotel at night - though Studer can think of a more down-to-earth reason for the haunting. Another classic tale from the publishers of European crime fiction which intrigues and satisfies.' - Coventry Telegraph
'In Sergeant Studer's droll fifth outing, which served as the series' swan song and sees its first English translation here, the Swiss police detective takes his matter-of-fact mastery of human nature and logical deduction to curmudgeonly new heights. When the waitress at the country inn where his daughter has just been married-and where a man murdered via sharpened bicycle spoke has lately turned up-brings prefilled drinks to the table rather than pouring them in his sight, the suspicious Studer surreptitiously swaps his glass with a tablemate and then counts his blessings when the man keels over, poisoned. Probably had it coming, the sergeant surmises, and Studer's ardent followers won't doubt him for more than a few seconds. As the mystery plays out like a Thin Man romp full of frame jobs and double crosses, one might be excused for wishing Glauser had set Studer on his usual darker path, but then even a hard-driving, Brissago-chomping detective deserves a break once in a while'. - Booklist
'Originally published in 1937, the fifth and final Det. Sgt. Jakob Studer mystery (after The Chinaman) offers just enough eccentricity to support the author's reputation as the Swiss Simenon. The Bern policeman and his wife are on holiday in the town of Schwarzenstein, where their daughter is getting married, when a man, Jean Stieger, is found dead in the Hôtel zum Hirschen, stabbed with a sharpened bicycle spoke. The local police take the obvious suspect, bicycle mechanic Ernst Graf, into custody. Studer, however, isn't convinced they have their man. Then Stieger's financier boss is poisoned to death. As Studer investigates, using his own peculiar method of ratiocination, he discovers any number of suspects in what is essentially a variant on the classic locked-room murder puzzle. If the forensic methods the detective employs appear quaint to the contemporary reader, that's half the fun.' - Publishers Weekly
'Nobody had expected the wedding celebrations of Sergeant Studer's daughter to be interrupted by a murder. But when a dead man is found in the garden behind the Hotel zum Hirschen in the Swiss town of Schwarzenstein where the festivities are taking place Studer finds himself called upon to investigate the death. The murder weapon in this particular case is highly unusual, as the victim has been killed by being stabbed with a sharpened spoke from a bicycle wheel. At first glance the nature of the weapon and other clues found at the scene of the crime seem to point to the owner of a local bicycle shop called Ernst Graf being the killer but Studer thinks otherwise. His investigations lead him to uncover a tangled tale of usury, corruption and plans for property development at the expense of honest Swiss citizens. This sadly is the fifth and last novel in the outstanding Sergeant Studer series and was originally published in 1937. Once again Glauser has created a fascinating and absorbing crime story that features strong character studies and a highly individual and eccentric narrative style. Like the other titles in the Sergeant Studer series Glauser expresses through his central character a strong social conscience and an ability to look beyond the deceptively tranquil setting of the Swiss countryside to expose harsher realities and sordid and venal motivations. However, honesty and good humour shine through the darkness in the bluff form of the stoic Sergeant Studer as he calmly surveys events whilst puffing on one of his beloved Brissago cigars. The Spoke makes a worthy conclusion to the Studer series.' - Crime Time