“One of the great pleasures of this publisher is that you can move on from one milieu to another. So, from Montevideo, I switched to the Franco-Swiss borderland near Basle for Hansjörg Schneider’s The Murder of Anton Livius, the translation of a German original published in 2007, with the translation supported by the Swiss Arts Council. Schneider, who lives in Basle, has published ten in the series, of which this is the third to be translated into English. The setting is atmospheric in place and mood. It is a case of borderlands, not only in the physical setting which reveals the extraordinary and often farcical difficulties personality and protocol place in the face of Franco-Swiss attempts to co-operate (The Bridge with depth and wit), but also temporally, between 1943 and the present, and in temperament, the last possibly reflecting the elderly author who was born in 1938. Schneider is also an accomplished playwright and there is a theatrical character to much of the novel, notably the scenes in bars which are also reminiscent of Simenon plays:
‘…I had heard a professor at the university, Gottlieb, the psychologist, mention your name – he had written a book called Modern Crime Detection –”
“Yes. A book that an intelligent criminal should send as a gift to every detective he knows.”
“Perhaps … he said that you were not susceptible of analysis because you had intuition from the devil…’
The story begins with an allotment find, that of an elderly man killed by a shot and then hung up by a meat-hook. The journey takes a while but leads to the Third Reich. Those, such as ex-President Trump, Sir Max Hastings, and other luminaries who have mistakenly praised its armed forces, might care to reflect on the methods of recruitment employed by the Germans in Alsace. The novel is sophisticated, well-written, witty, as in the description of the pompous, class-obsessed author of detective novels, and short. I was very impressed.”---The Critic
“A riveting crime thriller, it emphasizes that as an outsider, Hunkeler is alive to class differences and social milieux. The contrast between the xenophobia of the local police and the Swiss press and the desperate, often lonely, world of Balkan and other immigrants informs the story. It is interesting to note that the neighboring cities of Basel and Alsace are evoked with great love by author and novelist Schneider -- who in real life lives on the same street and frequents the same bars and restaurants as his fictional detective, Inspector Hunkeler. "The Murder of Anton Livius" is the third title in the Inspector Hunkeler series published in English. The first was The Basel Killings published by Bitter Lemon in 2021, winner of the Friedrich Glauser Prize, Germany's most prestigious crime fiction award. The second was Silver Pebbles, a beautifully crafted thriller about stolen diamonds, drug couriers and people accidentally caught in a vortex of crime. A deftly crafted crime thriller ably translated into English by Astrid Freuler, "The Murder of Anton Livius" is an eloquent, compelling, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”--- MBR MidWestBookReview
“This is no. 3 in the Inspector Hunkeler Investigates series. I read the previous novel in the series, Silver Pebbles, but there is no need to read in order, The Murder of Anton Livius can be read as a stand alone. The novel has an interesting premise. An appalling murder (a man has been shot and hung up on meat hook puncturing his chin) has taken place in a tiny dwelling in allotments outside the city of Basel. He is deemed to be Swiss (although whether he really has claimed to be comes into question) but the allotments are on French soil. Peter Hunkeler, a little careworn around the edges, is spending New Year in his holiday home in the Alsace, which is just across the border from Switzerland. The German Border is not far and the location and geography of this mystery is central to the narrative, as two nations have to combine their investigating processes as they aim to solve the murder. The allotments are governed by an inordinate number of rules and it becomes clear that certain locals were unhappy with incomers from other cultures who disregarded the do’s and don’ts. Hunkeler travels around the locality to interview known associates of the dead man and invariably takes time to imbibe some alcohol, eat the dish of the day in a guesthouse and chat to friends and colleagues.
The area around Basel is beautifully crafted, as the snow falls and the icy winds howl, which lends incredible atmosphere to this gently unfolding story. The translation by Asrid Freuler is very good. In the previous novel, Silver Pebbles, a different translator clearly struggled to create a honed and credible translation and so it is refreshing not to hear the German rattling along in the background and enjoy a smoothly crafted piece of writing.---TripFiction
“This is the sixth murder mystery by the eminent Swiss author and playwright Hansjörg Schneider featuring Detective Peter Hunkeler. As the book opens the stubborn, determined and sometimes difficult cop is on holiday in Alsace with his long-suffering girlfriend Hedwig, whose tolerance is more than usually stretched when he is summoned back home to Basel (the author’s home too) to unravel a gruesome killing in an allotment on the city’s outskirts. An old man known as Anton Flückiger has not only been butchered but also hung up on a meat hook. However, problem number one, was Flückiger his real name? Was he in fact a German soldier called Livius? He had become, on his marriage, a naturalised citizen of the remote and mountainous Emmental region. But such was his reputation as a chaser of other villagers’ wives that none of their cuckolded husbands would have been sorry to see him dead. Hunkeler leaves Basel to visit the village of Rüesbach where the victim and his wife had settled, and there he makes three discoveries. One, that the murdered man was indeed a German soldier and that his real name was Russius. Secondly, in a small grave on his property, he had buried an SS uniform and other reminders of his past. And thirdly, rooting about in the wartime archives, the detective comes across a case in which a group of French wartime deserters had been executed and suspended from meat hooks by German soldiers. Clue or coincidence? The reader must wait and see.
This is a complex, atmospheric book. The harshness of life in the Emmental region is vividly described (Hunkeler determines to buy more Emmentaler cheese to support those hard-working peasants!). Also explored is the little-known dilemma faced by different minorities in Switzerland from time to time. For instance, in this case, the allotment community where the body was discovered is on French ground but the victim was Swiss. Therefore, which police force should act?
Any of the books in the Hunkeler series can be read independently and all should be candidates for translation. Given the vogue for thrillers set in foreign parts, not to mention Switzerland’s perennial attractions, surely now is the time to start. ---New Books in German
Best International Crime Fiction of July: “Schneider’s series featuring Inspector Peter Hunkeler is kind of the most Swiss thing ever—it takes place in a border city, and a jumble of languages plus the frequent need for cross-border cooperation make for a fascinating farrago of crime-solving. In his latest to be translated into English, the inspector is confronted with a brutal killing that somehow connects to events in an Alsatian village during the Second World War.”---CrimeReads
“If you want proof that the Swiss certainly did not spend five hundred years of brotherly love inventing the cuckoo clock, try one of the Inspector Hunkeler books by Hansjörg Schneider, the latest to appear in translation, The Murder of Anton Livius, is now published by Bitter Lemon Press. Like Maigret, Hunkeler seems to solve crimes by some form of osmosis from the numerous restaurants and bars he visits (and there is a lot of snacking in this book) in either the frosty Swiss heartland of Emmental or over the border from his base in Basel into Alsace. An elderly Russian (or German?) immigrant is found shot and hung on a butcher’s hook on his allotment, which just happens to be over the border in France, but Hunkeler cannot resist getting involved and tracing the identity of the victim. (The tattoo under the left arm should have been a give-away.)---ShotsMag