THE WILD BOAR by Felix Mettler


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The ghost of DÜrrenmatt's The Judge and His Hangman hovers over this sweet, sad tale of murder and mortality at St. Stephan's Clinic--a bestseller in its native Switzerland. The news that he has terminal lung cancer galvanizes quiet Gottfried Sonder, a former butcher now nearing retirement from the autopsy lab at St. Stephan's, to kill the man he thinks ought to be dying instead of him--boorish, chain-smoking Dr. Horst GÖtze, who first diagnosed his illness. Identifying GÖtze with the wild boar who'd wounded him during an African hunt, Sonder lies in wait for his prey and, with the help of a blowpipe dart and some slick timing, pulls off a perfect murder--too perfect, since he ends up unwillingly incriminating impulsive gray eminence Harald (Caesar) Bani, whose car he's forced to use to dispose of GÖtze's body, and spreading suspicion over the uniformly sympathetic staff at St. Stephan's--from Sonder's physician Bruno Thalmann to doctoral student Pat Wyss. Even before Caesar's been able to dump GÖtze's day-old corpse into an uncooperative lake (some nicely agitated comedy here) and cobbled together an alibi with the help of his old friend Prof. Eugene (Wotan) Rusterholz, Commissioner HÄberli is already asking questions about the whereabouts of the vanished, unmourned GÖtze. Intuitive HÄberli may remind American readers of Lt. Columbo, but first-novelist Mettler, like his appealing little-man killer, is after much bigger game: an examination of the ways in which the virus of Sonder's mortality, his peevish struggle with death, infects the whole pathology lab, and eventually HÄberli as well. Not a mystery, or even a very good inverted detective story, but a parable, and a fine one, about the remarkable difficulty of leave-taking.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Fromm