Bad case of Weltschmerz? Try Indian elephants, Icelandic chills and Series 2 of The Code

Tearing your hair out over Brexit? Anxious about the US election results? Worried about the bees and climate change? If so, you may be suffering from a German malady called Weltschmerz – a sense of frustration, pain and despair at the state of the world (Welt = world; Schmerz = pain, ache, sorrow).

When Weltschmerz strikes crime fans, certain reading difficulties may arise. You may not feel in quite the right mood to tackle a social crime novel revealing further grim realities about the world, or noir crime devoid of the faintest glimmer of happiness or hope. You may instead find yourself drawn to crime that provides a refreshing antidote or escape, also known as Respite Crime.

Option 1. Comedy crime involving baby elephants

chopra-book-pile

Vaseem Khan, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. A Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation (Mulholland Books/Hodder, 2015)

Any crime novel that’s been called ‘utterly charming’ (The Guardian) or ‘endearing’ (The Sunday Times), would normally make me run for the hills. The same goes for crime series that use excessive whimsy (‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’, I’m looking at you). While The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra strays into such territory occasionally, there’s enough grit about modern-day Indian life in Mumbai to give this novel plenty of interest and depth.

The opening shows Inspector Ashwin Chopra, who’s about to retire from the police, discovering that he’s inherited an Indian elephant from his uncle Bansi. A cute, baby elephant. When Chopra investigates one last case – the suspicious death of a young man found on some waste ground – policeman and elephant form an unlikely investigative team. It’s a well-written, entertaining and satisfying read, and a funny, life-affirming antidote to Weltschmerz.

Did I mention the baby elephant? He’s really cute.

Option 2. Scare yourself witless with terrifying Icelandic crime

yrsa-s-why-did-you-lie

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Why Did You Lie?, trans by Victoria Cribb (Hodder and Stoughton, 2016 [2013]; a 2017 Petrona Award submission).

Or you could go completely the other way and immerse yourself in a chilling world where hapless individuals are being killed off one by one for telling lies. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Why Did You Lie? skilfully interweaves three narratives: that of a young policewoman whose journalist husband has recently committed suicide, a work group stranded on the Þrídrangar lighthouse as hostile Icelandic weather closes in, and a family who return after a house-swap to find their American guests are missing. The author has an impressively fertile imagination and expertly ratchets up the suspense. It’s perhaps not one to read too late at night, but is brilliant at keeping Weltschmerz at bay. You’ll simply be too terrified to think about anything else.

Þrídrangar

The Þrídrangar lighthouse

Option 3. Lose yourself in some top-quality crime drama set on the other side of the world

By happy coincidence, the second series of outstanding Australian political thriller The Code starts on BBC4 this Saturday 22 October at 9.00pm. Series 1 aired back in 2014 – you can read my post on it here.

code

Opening episode: After the events of series 1, journalist Ned Banks and his computer hacker brother Jesse face the prospect of being extradited to the US to face criminal charges. Fortunately for them, Australian National Security has an explosive case it can’t crack, and Jesse may be the man to do it. The brothers also encounter black-market king Jan Roth, and risk being drawn into his shady world. 

If those options fail, treat yourself to this lovely clip of Mike, aka the ‘Hamster of Serenity’. Here he is eating a carrot. If you turn the volume up you can hear him munching.

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26 thoughts on “Bad case of Weltschmerz? Try Indian elephants, Icelandic chills and Series 2 of The Code

  1. I must admit I have resorted to following a twitter account called @cuteemergency…for when I NEED a hit of puppies (or equivalent) otherwise there is danger of self harm at the depressingness of it all. Maybe I’ll go for liars getting killed by Yrsa instead…that sounds very good

  2. I love that word, Mrs. P – thanks. And you know, I think you have a great idea for a remedy here. Who doesn’t love baby elephants? And I’m a Yrsa fan, so it’s good to have that one to look forward to as well. And I really hope The Code comes this way. All of them are excellent medicine 🙂

    • It’s a good one, isn’t it? I always knew that crime fiction and reading provided great solace -they’re doing an even grander job than usual right now.

  3. Respite Crime – never heard of it, what a brilliant idea! Can’t wait to get down with the baby elephant, sounds great.

    • Cool names, cool alphabet – what’s not to like? I’m not sure I could manage the lighthouse (especially after reading the book), but it would certainly be a unique experience.

  4. ‘Respite crime’ – brilliant! Can’t wait to use it at my next workshop.

    I do love the idea of crime writing with baby elephants…

    May I also say that the Australian TV series ‘Deep Water’, which you recently alerted me to on this blog, proved to be excellent. One to watch for, Mrs P.

    • Great – let’s see if the term catches on!

      So pleased to hear that ‘Deep Water’ was excellent. Will look forward to catching it here, hopefully before too long. Thanks for letting me know, Angela!

  5. I’m another who’d recommend The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. My wife read it and loved it, and finally pestered me into reading it too (“And you can stop rolling your eyes like that, Mr Smartypants”). To my surprise, I loved it too, and am keeping an eye open for the follow-up.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed Inspector Chopra, realthog (or should we now call you Mr. Smartypants?). By the end of the novel, everything was set up very nicely for the next in the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Ganesha’s character develops 😉

  6. Weltschmertz – awesome word and very apt. I am going hunting for the baby elephant (that makes three trips to the bookstore in four days) I am not sure I am up to Yrsa just at the moment…

  7. I like Mike, too, am wondering how the neighbor’s dachshund would react to this video. We need all the cutness we can get now.
    Like the term “respite crime.” We surely need it over ere as the true crime of one of the presidential “candidates” is revealed. The world must think this country has fallen off the edge of the planet.
    I’ll pass on Yrsa, gets too horrific sometimes, not my cup of tea. But the elephant book sounds good for these times.
    And I’ll add “The Code” and “Deep Water” to my dvd list.
    Am now enjoying Swedish police detective, Maria Wern, on my dvd player.

    • We all need to switch off from life now and then, but I can imagine that’s hard in the States given the current campaign. Election day can’t come soon enough – time to get it over with!

      Glad that Mike and crime viewing are helping to distract a little… An elephant may be just the thing to add into the mix.

  8. I had a bad experience with R. Chandler The Big Sleep during the #readathon last weekend. Thinking it was the proverbial “…it’s not you, it’s me..” excuse. I was just to tired when I read it. I watche A. Marr’s BBC 4 ‘ Sleuths’ and learned so much about the development of CF and that has fascinated me! Pondering how to incorporate MORE CF into reading program. I so enjoy you expaining that there is a type of CF for every person….every mood.
    Voor mij….wereldpijn (het gevoel van diepe droefheid ) gaat diep. Verkiezing Trump-Clintonin in USA…raakt mijn hart. When did my country…where my roots are become a banana republic?

    • Thanks for the reminder about the Marr programme, N@ncy – must check that out. Mood is key for all reading, I think. The *great* thing about crime fiction is that there’s always something to suit all moods and tastes.

      US election – I feel your pain – keeping everything crossed for a return to a saner political situation…

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