Thursday 13 October 2011

Read in 2011 - 23: Wenn die Dämmerung naht

Every now and then, I read a book in German, which was the case with this one, "Wenn die Dämmerung naht" by Peter Robinson. And throughout the book, I kept wishing I'd been reading the original English version - because while I did not find any type setting errors (and if you have been reading my blog for a while, you'll know how meticulous I am about those), more than once I read the German sentence and just KNEW what it must have been in English, and found the translation lacking. Overall, the lady who translated the book still did a good job, just not a brilliant one.

If you have read any of the books by Peter Robinson, you are familiar with DCI Alan Banks and DI Annie Cabbot, as well as with quite a few other characters you'll meet again in this story, such as Winsome Jackman, the athletic and beautiful Detective Constable, and Kevin Templeton, who manages to be so NOT politically correct all the time that his colleagues truly despair.

The original title of this book is "Friend of the Devil". It is, as all the Alan Banks series, set in Yorkshire, with the main locations being Eastvale and Whitby. Leeds and Scarborough are also mentioned, and especially the scenes set in the latter evoked quite a bit of nostalgia in me; with my late husband, I went to Scarborough on holiday for many years, and with every name of a street or a place I had a clear picture in my mind of what it looked, smelled and sounded like.

Annie Cabbot has been transferred to a different police unit than Alan Banks, and the two of them do not see or hear a lot of each other. This changes when their current cases show a link - a link that leads 18 years in the past.
Annie's case is that of a woman in a wheelchair, found murdered at the edge of a cliff, and Alan has to deal with a dead girl found in the "Labyrinth", an area of dark, narrow alleyways between ancient houses either empty or used as storage sheds, just behind Eastvale's market square. At first glance, they seem to have nothing to do with each other, but once the connection is made, Alan and Annie and their teams work together, and the deeper they dig in the past, the more mysterious it gets. A member of their team falls victim to the murderer, and we read how police men and women react when a colleague is killed. During the "showdown" with the murderer, it seems like Annie is going to be next, but in the end it turns out that she never was in any danger. Not this time, at least.

The personal lives of the main characters also feature in the story. Alan falls in love again, but the direction of the relationship is unknown. Annie gets herself into some trouble, and her drinking causes problems to herself and to others.

As with the other Alan Banks stories, this one is a good read and there is plenty of suspense. It took me almost as long as it took Annie to figure out who the murderer of the woman in the wheelchair was, and I was surprised at the turn of events that lead to Alan finding the murderer of the girl in the Labyrinth.
There are some gruesome events, but they are not described in such detail that I found it unbearable to read. The setting is atmospheric and (most of) the characters act credibly.

Next time I come across an Alan Banks book, I am definitely going to read that, too - preferably in English :-)


  1. I am not fluent enough to read books in either French or German (the only two languages I can make a stab at) so I am very impressed at your post.

    I'm reading a most fascinating book "Through the Language Glass" which has been highly recommended by a number of people.It's about how language relates to the way we think. NOT boringly written at all, believe me, but it is amazing how the language we use influences our whole perception of life.

    Oh, and one thing surprises me in your post. As you are a librarian in Germany, why don't you usually read German books? It seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity since you must be surrounded by them ! :)

  2. I began to read (very haltingly) the French version of one of my novels, and I don't think it worked. The humour simply didn't translate. In fact I was surprised that the French had bought it. The language in which a novel is written is so much a part of that novel, I wonder that it ever works at all (although it obviously does, since all the great classics have been translated into many languages).

  3. Ooh, I love mysteries and this one sounds intriguing. Thanks for introducing it to me!

  4. Jenny, that book sounds like a "must read" for me! I love languages, and I know bits about how one's language influences one's way of thinking, but I have never read a whole book about the subject.
    As for not reading that much in German - well, I do read plenty in German; my weekly paper, for instance, and of course in daily life (work and leisure) I am constantly surrounded by German, both in written and spoken form. But I feel just as much at home in English as in German, and do not want to lose touch with that part of my mind. Therefore, about 2/3 of the books I read are in English.

    Frances, it must have been odd to find your own writing translated! And I agree; humour is the most difficult (nearly impossible) thing of all to translate. I admire those people who manage to get it across, whether it is the dubbing of a movie or translating a book.

    Sonia, you are welcome!

  5. During cooking dinner on Wednesday, this is what you would have heard in our kitchen.
    Me: (Looking at my Beatrix Potter calendar on the wall) "Oh look, today is Wednesday or Mittwoch in German."
    Husband: "Oh yes, typical German efficiency, it means Mid-week."
    Me: "Oh, yes, give me another example".
    Husband: "Buestenhalter".
    Me: "I think I can even guess what that means".
    Husband: "Yes, I really like the German language."
    Richard then said that he really enjoy visiting Germany, he liked the Roman remains in Trier.
    Now, you know the kind of things we talk about!
    I know this doesn't have anything to do with the book review you just gave! The book does sound like a book I would like to read, but it would have to be in English for me! :-)

  6. Kay, I've never been to Trier, but there are Roman remains in my area, too (although not quite as impressive as the famous Porta Nigra).
    Do you know how to pronounce the "ch" in Mittwoch properly?

  7. Roman remains, a lovely castle, your great family and are one lucky gal, aren't you?
    Ha, your last question make me smile. Of course, the answer would be "no" for me, but "yes" for Richard! Oh, and by the way, my calendar has the names of the week in English, French and German!
    (In French class, I was EXCELLENT in translation but absolute RUBBISH at pronunciation!)

  8. I do indeed consider myself lucky, Kay!

  9. I watched an adaptation over last weekend - they had obviously changed the story a bit, judging by your description, but I thought it was quite good, although they both seem a bit willfully self-destructive.

  10. Hello Jodie, nice to see you here! I've never seen any of the Alan Banks stories on TV and, come to think of it, do not even have a clear picture of the main characters in my head. There usually are a few changes to make it more "televisable" (I don't know if that word actually exists, I have just made it up) when a book is made into a film, aren't there. Sometimes they are OK, sometimes they change too much.