A good, dark crime novel for the winter: “Murder by the Circle” by Dan Turèll

This month’s book review presents a gloomy Danish murder story written in 1983 by poet Dan Turèll. This is a crime novel I truly enjoyed. It was fast to read – mostly because I couldn’t put it down – and quite thrilling: the perfect book to accompany your nights in the deep of winter. I must confess I’m not a great fan of contemporary crime novels, and I’ve tried to read Stieg Larsson’s books but gave up after 10 minutes – the writing was not that good, and I didn’t find it compelling. Dan Turèll is a complete different story. He was an experimental Danish poet, who is sorely missed after his premature death in 1993. The city of Copenhagen, where I live, has even named a square in his honor: Onkel Danny Plads (“Uncle Danny’s” square). So, if I was to read a Scandinavian crime novel, it had to by by Uncle Danny, the excentric, humorous poet whose style – as Wikipedia puts it, is “delightfully difficult to fit in a box”. Plus, this book is set in Nørrebro, my neighborhood, during a gloomy and cold month of January…and the murders in the book take place about ten minutes away from where I live. That alone made the book extra creepy.

“Murder by the Circle” is a beautifully written novel inspired by American pulp novels. As a poet, Dan Turèll is a keen observer of human nature. He gives us a dark-humored, anthropological account of Copenhagen at the beginning of the 80s, with its squatters and biker-gangs, immigrants and barflies. And lots of dry, Danish sarcasm. At the same time, though, the book is deeply human, which makes it even more compelling. The narrator is a nameless reporter working for a fictional Danish tabloid, who is unfortunate enough to keep stumbling in the victims of a mysterious serial killer….I can’t tell you more. But one thing I really like is the deeper meaning of the book, a sort of reflection on what “home” and family means in Denmark. It’s highly recommended!

And this is a photo of Uncle Danny (via lionblog2544.blogspot.com). A detail you cannot see is his signature dark nail polisher manicure.

Thanks to Italian publisher Iperborea for selecting me as part of their blogger contest: I won an ebook of my choice from their crime novel selection to review – and I was so pleasantly surprised to find this novel by Turèll! The title of this book in Italian is Assassinio di Lunedi, from the Collana Ombre by Iperborea. You can find it here. I really hope they are going to translate more of Turell’s work – pleas do!! In the meantime I may just try in Danish. No English translations of Turell’s work are available yet, as far as I know, that’s just not right!

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