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Thriller set around Zürich (…a customer incident is all it takes…)

19th June 2019

Montecristo by Martin Suter, thriller set around Zürich, translated by Jamie Bulloch.

Thriller set around Zürich

As the book opens, a Swiss train on its way to Basel comes to a grinding halt due to a customer incident. A body has been seen flying from the train. Jonas Brand, a video journalist, happens to be on board and starts filming…. it transpires that it is the body of über-successful stock trader Paulo Contini.

After this dreadful event, Jonas continues with his life as normal, hooking up with new girlfriend Marina and dithering between his desire to become an investigative film maker and doing what he actually does very well, to wit, film social events for the celebrity TV programme Highlife. His mentor Max Gantmann keeps chastising him for taking the easy path and not fulfilling his potential.

Montecristo is the name of the screenplay that Jonas has written, its main protagonist has been shafted by his colleagues at work and he finds himself banged up in Bang Kwang Central Prison in Thailand, accused of drug smuggling (the title, of course, is a nod to the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo, who was incarcerated and then escaped). Brand has, however, set this project to one side, as he has approached various film companies time after time but been roundly rebuffed.

Thus a portrait of an average Swiss citizen is formed. What could possibly go wrong in his life? Well, his discovery of two identical 100 SWF notes for a start. They are the same in every way, right down to the serial numbers. So he sets off to talk to those in the know. Each note is confirmed as genuine tender, yet his investigative nose knows he is on to something… something BIG.

Brand forays into the world of banking, which clearly is still teetering on foundations of sand, populated by chancers, greedy and immoral graspers, who will go to any lengths to cover up and deceive. Brand’s life is on the line as he navigates the intrigue in the industry and eventually he has to run for his life. Those squeaky clean Swiss, eh…?

Suter’s style is laconic, perceptive and there are plenty of wry observations. I loved the first two thirds of the novel and then found the last few chapters, as all the threads were coming together, a little frantic (scrappy, even, I hate to say)… it almost felt as though the author had set a timer clock to get to the finish line.

Beautifully translated as ever from the Swiss German by Jamie Bulloch.

And do you know what made it a particularly enjoyable read? Yes. Reading it whilst being in Switzerland!

Thriller set around Zürich

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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