Ursula Hasler | What really happened
Ursula Hasler’s “Die schiere Wahrheit” (What really happened) is a crime novel with two intertwined narratives. It is June 1937. Friedrich Glauser meets his literary idol Georges Simenon at the seaside resort of Saint-Jean-de-Monts on the French Atlantic coast. The two of them use their chance encounter to share some literary wisdom. This prompts them to venture an experiment and write a whodunnit together in which Glauser’s Sergeant Studer teams up with Simenon’s Amélie Morel (Simenon has recently put Commissaire Maigret out to pasture.)
This fictional meeting between the two crime writers marks the beginning of a cleverly woven story based on their literary kinship. Both Glauser and Simenon believed that a good crime story is more than just about putting the world to rights by solving a puzzle. Glauser: “It is also about deciphering and understanding the culprit as a person.” Hence Glauser quickly found his role model in Simenon. In Ursula Hasler’s novel, the two of them partake in a game to prove that they are kindred spirits.
Nurse Amélie Morel discovers a man dead on the beach. Is it an accident or murder? Because the deceased is a Swiss-American dual citizen with good connections, Sergeant Studer is brought in from Switzerland to help in the case. Under pressure from his superiors, the French investigator Inspector Picot is in a hurry to treat the death as an accident. But both Studer and Morel believe a crime has been committed. They try to find out what really happened.
Hasler has carefully read through Glauser and Simenon to lend a flavour of their crime writing to her novel. The investigation unfolds in an amusing plot with both Simenonian and Glauseresque traits. Hasler’s double narrative switches between the murder case itself and dialogues in which Glauser and Simenon excitedly discuss their literary style as well as issues like justice and fairness. Their imaginary encounter develops into a delightful to and fro. It is an enjoyable, stimulating exchange, shining a light on the current boom in crime fiction and examining what readers expect from the genre.