International Fiction

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Translated from the Danish by K. E. Semmel

Jussi Adler-Olsen, Denmark’s number one crime writer , is making inroads on this side of the ocean partly thanks to Steig Larsson’s tremendous success with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Detective Carl Morck is an engaging investigator of cold cases and has just been made aware of a double murder that has gone unsolved for twenty years. As Morck and his assistant Hafez el-Assad dig into this brutal murder the more they are convinced that the murderers are still free. Two decades earlier at an exclusive boarding school a gang of sociopaths take perverse pleasure terrorizing their classmates and are now successful professionals, prominent in their fields – well respected and above suspicion.

Morck realizes through his investigation that Kimmie, the lone girl, of the “gang” is the key to breaking the case. Unfortunately Kimmie’s “classmates” realize this too and Kimmie is in grave danger. However, she has a chameleon-like ability to vanish into her surroundings and chooses to live on the streets of Copenhagen. Will Detective Morck find her before her classmates? The Absent One part of the Department Q series is a riveting tale, suspenseful and disturbing.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larrson
Shadow Prey by John Sandford

Peg McCarthy, Smithtown Library (Retired)

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

The Van Wonderen twins were born to a farmer and his wife in north Holland. From childhood it was clear that Henk would be the son to take over the farm when he got older since he clearly had an aptitude for it. Helmer, the more scholarly boy, was destined to go to the university in Amsterdam and study Dutch literature. But plans change – Henk is killed in a car accident and Helmer is yanked from college and told he is going to be the farmer. He has been the farmer – for the past 37 years. Atmospheric novel with memorable characters.

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches Library, Retired

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri

Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli

Working and living in the small, fictitious town of Vigata, Inspector Montalbano is Italy’s Lieutenant Columbo. He doesn’t wear a trench coat or smoke cigars, but has the same unthreatening manner that leads criminals to underestimate him.

The Dance of the Seagull is the latest book in the popular Montalbano series wherein the inspector’s right hand man, Fazio has gone missing. Backtracking his detective’s last moves, Montalbano finally finds his friend disheveled, beaten, and with no memory of what happened.

This character-driven mystery is an easy read broken into 1-3 page scenes within the chapters. The “boy’s club” atmosphere (no female officers or detectives) lends itself to some crass language which Montalbano and Co. use as they trade jokes and remark about the mafia and underhanded politics of the town. This is old school Sicily and Montalbano balances it all with a dry sense of humor and a bowl of caponata.


• The Shape of Water (1994) or any other in the Salvo Montalbano series
• An Artful Death (Inspector Alvarez), by Roderic Jeffries
• Inspector Morse novels, by Colin Dexter

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck

Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

When we first meet Helene she is a nurse residing with her young son Jack, in Berlin, Germany. Helene seems oddly cold with her son as they head to the train station to catch a train going West at the end of World War II. After arriving at the train station, Helene asks her son to sit down, tells him she will be back, walks away and abandons him. The story then proceeds to flash back to Helene’s life as a child and into adulthood. Her father is severely injured in World War I, her Mother is mentally ill and her older sister is addicted to morphine. It seems that all the situations and all relationships that surround Helene are unhealthy and unproductive. Helen is disconnected from everyone around her and as she puts it, she prefers to be in her white nurse’s uniform as people do not ask about her, they look only for her service. She seems to prefer only being needed by those to whom she has no real personal connection.

The tone of the book is somber, taut and serious. I found it difficult to get over the initial action of the novel and found myself not being able to put the book down as I looked for a definitive reason that allows her to be able to abandon her son. Overall a dark, devastating, foreboding, cruel and thought provoking novel. Franck creates a novel that tells the horrors of war through allusion instead of using graphic details

Author Notes

Julia Franck was born in Berlin in 1970. The Blindness of the Heart, which won the German Book Prize in 2007 and has sold over 800,000 copies in Germany alone, is her first novel to be translated into English. She has written six novels prior to The Blindness of the Heart and one since. It has been translated into 35 languages. She resides with her family in Berlin.


Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
The Burnt Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen
A Women in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City by Anonymous
Brodeck by Phillipe Claudel

Donna Brown, Northport-East Northport Public Library

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett

The Dinner has been widely acclaimed in Europe, with over one million copies sold. The action of the story takes place around a meal in an Amsterdam restaurant, a meal shared by two couples. Gradually we learn from the narrator that he and his brother, with their wives, have met to discuss the actions of their teenage sons. Paul’s character, and his voice, at first appear reasonable, even engaging, but darkness inexorably creeps in: what seem to be sly and witty observations about politics, class, and racism take on a sustained and menacing meaning as the reader begins to grasp the nature of the teenager’s crime. To say much more would spoil the story which belongs on the must-read list of all readers who enjoy thrillers and thoughtful novels that explore contemporary issues.

Author Herman Koch is Dutch, a TV producer and writer who is fluent in English and schooled in American culture as well. The interview he gave with the BBC to promote this novel is titled “‘The Dinner’ Asks: What Will You Do to Protect Your Family?” and certainly that is one question that is raised. What is most shocking is the moral relativism, no, the moral bankruptcy of the characters and their choices. “The Dinner” would make a great book club choice. Read-alike authors would include Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters for they, too, are masters of creating intricate plots, and sustaining an escalating feeling of suspens

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous

Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

The year is 2005, shortly after the terrorist attacks in Madrid. The Italian secret service has intelligence that a group of Muslims in Rome’s Viale Marconi neighborhood is planning a terrorist attack. They recruit a young Sicilian, Christian Mazzari, who speaks fluent Arabic to go undercover and infiltrate the group.

Christian, who has taken on the Arabic name, Issa, heads for Little Egypt, a crowded, commercial part of Rome that tourists rarely see. The Arab-speaking immigrants who live there work in pizza kitchens and live in communal apartments. Issa rents a bed in one of these apartments and ingratiates himself to the men in the community. He meets Safia, the wife of an Egyptian architect who is forced to work as a pizza maker. It is an arranged marriage and life in Italy is no dolce vita for Safia. She, like Issa, is leading a secret life: unknown to her husband, she works as a hairdresser in a friend’s home.

Lakhous’ tale hangs on the terrorist plot while using the complexities of Muslim identity in a multicultural environment to take the reader into the changing demographics of Italy, which heretofore was far more homogeneous than that of other European nations. Issa says: “Muslims are real male chauvinists, openly homophobic while we Italians, sly as usual, are friendly toward gays and women, but underneath we’re hypocritically chauvinist.”

Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Grace O’Connor, West Islip Public Library

Perlmann’s Silence by Pascal Mercier

Translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside

Philipp Perlmann is invited to a conference on linguistics, but because he is grieving the recent death of his wife he has no motivation to properly prepare. The only writings he takes with him belong to a colleague that is unable to attend. The days pass and Perlmann begins to panic. He has yet to write anything worthy of his reputation. How can he face a panel of his peers and have nothing to contribute? As his desperation becomes more and more overwhelming, Perlmann decides that the only way out of his dilemma is to present his colleague’s paper as his own—no one would be the wiser—and so he does. There’s just one problem: his colleague has wired the conference that he will be able to attend after all. Perlmann is horrified at the prospect of being labeled a plagiarist and, after considering the ramifications of being exposed, he concludes that the only solution is to murder his colleague.

A deep, psychological read written in a literary style, Perlmann’s Silence may not appeal to every reader. But if you enjoy a meticulously detailed depiction of a man’s life and mind coming undone, this slow-moving 600-page novel will reward you with twists and turns and a suspenseful feeling throughout. You will wonder how Perlmann will ever extract himself from the intricate web that he has woven—and just when it appears that there is resolution, he jeopardizes himself again by making some very poor choices.

A recent movie release that deals with plagiarism is The Words starring Bradley Cooper and Dennis Quaid. Some other books with the topic of the psychology of grief include The Sea by John Banville; The Fall of a Sparrow by Robert Hellenga; and a reader may want to try Pascal Mercier’s first novel Night Train to Lisbon if they like Mercier’s writing style.

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

Pow! by Yan Mo

Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt

This is the tale of Liu Xiaotong, whose dreams of becoming a local hero are dashed when his father takes an ax to his mother. Alone and reduced to poverty, he tells his story to a “wise monk” in hopes of becoming a novice.

Pow! Won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature. The author, who has been criticized for focusing on the everyday lives of rural Chinese rather than making political statements, addresses a surprising number of troubling trends: the stifling of dissent, the poisoning of the food supply, rampant consumerism, the inanity of much popular entertainment, and the younger generation’s fear of maturity.

This is literary fiction from an accomplished storyteller. Although the story within a story structure interrupts the pacing, the narrator’s unique voice encourages the reader to continue. With the exception of Xiaotong, the players are stock characters: the nagging wife, the erring husband, his wanton girlfriend, the lecherous boss, his treacherous underling, etc. The story is ribald, the tone humorous, and the mood satirical. Although some might find some aspects objectionable, the book could spark a good discussion among adventurous readers.

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
A Chinese Life, Li Kunwu and P. Otie. (Graphic Novel)
Broken Glass, Alain Mabanckou
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
My Life as Emperor, Tong Su

Jackie Malone, North Bellmore Public Library

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Translated from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum

This novel is a combination of mystery, a magical realism-type quest and literary fiction. At times confusing, with bizarre digressions, this renowned novel is a fascinating look into the life of a seemingly ordinary 29 year old man who is living in Japan in the late 1970’s. The narrator is never given a name. In fact, the characters are identified mostly by their roles: the girlfriend, the Boss, the chauffeur, the secretary. The only character that comes close to having a name is “J”, an old friend of the narrator who owns a bar.

The life of the narrator is changed by a photograph sent to him by his mysterious friend, referred to as the “Rat”. The narrator uses this photo of a mountain and a sheep in an advertising campaign. This prompts a visit from the secretary and as assignment to find a particular sheep. If the narrator does not find the sheep, the secretary hints that things will not go well for him. The narrator and his girlfriend, who is a psychic prostitute, proofreader and ear model, travel north in search of the mountain and the sheep.

The translation of this novel seems to capture the particularly unusual writing style of the Murakami. I know that there are many cultural references that may be confusing to a reader not familiar with post-war Japan. Despite this and the quirkiness of the plot, the book was enjoyable and intriguing.

Readers who enjoy literary fiction and magical realism will enjoy this novel.

Terry Lucas, Rogers Memorial Library

Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

Book three in the Harry Hole series finds Harry in a bit of trouble after the accidental shooting of an American Secret Service Agent during a visit from the U.S. President to Oslo. Both governments want to cover up the mistake so Harry ends up with a promotion to a job he really doesn’t want. While in his new position, Harry catches a case involving a high-powered rifle that links him to neo-Nazis in the present as well as WWII Nazi officers in the past.

Although the book is long and looks intimidating at over 500 pages, the chapters are short and the reading goes quickly holding your interest. Redbreast jumps back and forth between the past and present making the book hard to follow in the beginning, but once you gets used to it, the plot holds your interest and makes you want to find out what’s going to happen next. There are several other story lines running parallel such as love interest for Harry, the loss of a friend, a corrupt police officer and a government official who uses his position to take advantage of the women subordinate to him. Harry is a flawed character, but you can’t help rooting for him to succeed both at work and in his personal life. The book is set is Oslo and its neighborhoods beginning in winter and moving through spring into summer allowing you to really get a feel for the country. Readers not used to seeing Norwegian towns and word spellings may need time to get accustomed to them and occasionally it causes a break in the fluidity of the story, but again, after a few chapters it ceases to be an issue.

Overall, this was an interesting, fast-paced crime novel with well-developed characters and an interesting setting. Fans of mystery and police procedurals will enjoy it and it would be a good fit for both men and women.

The Aimée Leduc Investigation series by Cara Black
The Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon
The Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell
The Inspector Van Veeteren series by Håkan Nesser

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born

Trond Sander is a reclusive 67 year old man living in Norway. While out walking his dog, he meets his neighbor, Lars Haug, and what Trond doesn’t realize immediately is that these men have known each other for a very long time. This chance (or is it?) meeting forces Trond to remember the summer of 1948, a summer of both tragedy and the unique bond of a father and son; a summer of happiness and loss.

Petterson’s coming-of-age story is intertwined with a grown man’s reflection on his life and choices. It’s quiet and subtle but effectively poignant. Read-alikes include After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld, The Eye of the Leopard by Henning Mankell and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

Author Bio (from Literature Resource Center):

Per Petterson is a much-honored Norwegian writer who, among other themes, has explored Norway's working-class men, fathers and sons, and people who have had to deal with horrendous loss. Petterson has been long recognized as one of Norway's preeminent writers, and he has begun to receive worldwide acclaim from both critics and readers with the translation of his novels into English. He was the winner of the London Independent Foreign Fiction prize (with translator Anne Born), 2006, and IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (with translator Anne Born), 2007, both for Out Stealing Horses.

Cathi Nashak, Deer Park Public Library

The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg

Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born

Sophie Brinkmann is a nurse, a widow and the single mother of a teenage boy. She lives a pleasant but uneventful life in her beautiful cottage in Sweden. She meets Hector Guzman while nursing him back to health after a car accident. Sophie is drawn to Hector and they begin seeing each other once Hector is released from the hospital.

Sophie soon learns that Hector is the head of an international crime organization. He is being investigated by a corrupt group of Swedish police, made up of reject detectives who aren't above breaking the law to solve cases. Sophie is targeted by the head of this rogue department, Gunilla Strandberg, and she begins to cooperate in the investigation.

A turf war breaks out in Stockholm between Hector's organization and some Russian drug dealers and German arms traders. Sophie’s former boyfriend Jens, a Swedish arms dealer, turns up and attempts to keep Sophie and her son Albert out of harm’s way.

The Andalucian Friend is the first book in a planned trilogy. The author is a television writer in Sweden and this is his first novel. The novel reads like an action movie, full of high-speed car chases, incredible violence and evil super-villains. Readers who like a fast-paced thriller with a complex plot and a global setting might enjoy this one.

The Millenium Series by Stieg Larsson
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
Red Wolf by Liza Marklund
Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom

Jessica Quenzer, The Smithtown Library