Mark Lawson’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ series kicked off yesterday with an exploration of two seminal detectives from Belgium – Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret. Val McDermid, Andrea Camilleri, P.D. James, Jakob Arjouni and Camilla Lackberg all joined Mark for a fascinating discussion about these two key investigative figures.
Today it was the turn of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Swiss detective Inspector Bärlach, featuring a contribution from your very own Mrs. P… Our discussion took in Dürrenmatt’s links to earlier Swiss crime writer Friedrich Glauser, Dürrenmatt’s exploration of the moral crisis facing Europe following the Holocaust, and his subversion of the detective genre to question the possibility of justice. The crime novels discussed included The Judge and his Hangman (Der Richter und sein Henker, 1950), Suspicion (Der Verdacht, 1951) and The Pledge (Das Verprechen, 1958).
Listings for the first 7 episodes are now up on the ‘Foreign Bodies’ website. They air Monday to Friday on Radio 4 at 13.45, and are then available online. For good measure, there’s an omnibus edition on Friday at 21.00.
Episode 1 Belgium: Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret (Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon)
Episode 2 Switzerland / Germany: Inspector Bärlach (Friedrich Dürrenmatt)
Episode 3 Czechoslovakia: Lieutenant Boruvka (Josef Skvorecky)
Episode 4 The Netherlands: Commissaris Van Der Valk (Nicolas Freeling)
Episode 5 Sweden: Inspector Martin Beck (Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö)
Episode 6 UK: Commander Dalgliesh / Chief Inspector Wexford (P.D. James and Ruth Rendell)
Episode 7 Sicily: Inspector Rogas (Leonardo Sciascia)
You can also hear Bernard Hepton (who played Toby Esterhase in the BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) begin his sublime Radio 4 reading of Dürrenmatt’s novella The Judge and his Hangman (available until 29 October).
Roseanna, the first of the Martin Beck dramatisations – will air on Radio 4 on Saturday 27 October at 14.30, but if you can’t wait, help yourself to this sneak preview.
Mrs. P’s review of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge is available here.
UPDATE 28 October: Mark Lawson has written an overview article about the ‘Foreign Bodies’ series for The Guardian entitled ‘Crime’s Grand Tour: European Detective Fiction’.