Hans Plays With Lotte, Lotte Plays With Jane*

CollaborationThis year marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of WWI, a time when a host of countries, many of them (but of course, not only!) European countries who fought against each other. We’ve seen what that kind of strife can do. But the fact is, there’s also been some genuine co-operation amongst the countries of Europe as well. It’s not always easy, but it happens. It’s clear in real life, and we see how that sort of co-operation plays out in crime fiction as well.

In Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, for instance, French and English authorities work together to solve the murder of Ruth Van Aldin Kettering, who’s strangled during a trip on the famous Blue Train. The first likely suspect is Count Armand de la Roche. He was known to be having an affair with the victim, and has a reputation for bilking his wealthy lovers out of their fortunes. But there’s not enough hard evidence to link him to the crime. Hercule Poirot was on the train when the killing occurred, so he’s on hand to work with the police to find out who the criminal is. In this case, there isn’t just co-operation as the murder is solved; there’s also co-operation involved in tracking down the missing jewels. Of course, not all of Christie’s stories feature such successful collaboration (I know, I know, fans of The Murder on the Links). But it’s evident here.

It’s also evidence in Bartholomew Gill’s McGarr and the PM of Belgrave Square. In that novel, Garda Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr and his assistant O’Shaughnessy investigate the shooting death of Dublin art and antiques dealer William Craig. The team starts with those closest to home: Craig’s wife, business partner and son. Any of them might have had a motive, and they aren’t the only ones. Then it’s discovered that one of the paintings Craig had in his shop is missing. This of course adds another dimension to the murder as well as an interesting clue. McGarr’s wife Noreen has a background in art history, so she follows up on that lead. The trail takes her to France, where she makes an important discovery about the painting. And that discovery helps to lead to the killer. In this case, French and Irish authorities have to share information in order to solve the murder.

Helene Tursten’s police detective Irene Huss lives and works in Göteborg. But murderers cross borders, and sometimes killings are related to things that have happened in other countries. So more than once, Huss works with other police authorities to solve murders. In The Glass Devil for instance, the murders of three members of the Schyttelius family lead the members of Göteborg’s Violent Crimes Unit to believe that someone has a personal vendetta against that family. If that’s the case, then Rebecka Schyttelius, who’s living in London, may be in grave danger. Huss travels to London and works with Inspector Glen Thompson of the Met to track down Rebecka and find out who might want to kill her family. This case has its roots in the past, in Sweden. But it takes co-operation between Swedish and UK authorities to solve it. In The Torso, Huss works with Danish authorities to solve the murder of Marcus Tosscander, whose body is found one day on a beach. Although he was originally from Göteborg, he’d moved to Copenhagen. So Huss travels there to follow up on the victim’s life and find out who would have wanted to kill him.

Stefan Tegenfalk’s trilogy Anger Mode, Project Nirvana and The Weakest Link feature Stockholm County CID police detectives Walter Gröhn and Jonna de Brugge. In Project Nirvana, German police authorities ask for help from Swedish authorities to find a Swedish national, Leo Brageler, who is suspected of murdering four German scientists. There seems to be no motive for the killings, and it’s hoped that if Swedish police look into Brageler’s background, they’ll be able to provide that. Gröhn and de Brugge and their team begin the task of tracing Brageler, but he seems to have disappeared. If they’re going to find the link between Brageler and the murder victims, they’ll have to find him as soon as possible. In the meantime, they’re faced with other crimes including a dangerous hostage situation. This case has far-reaching implications, and solving it involves German, Swedish and UK authorities.

Anya Lipska’s novels feature Janusz Kiszka, who is Polish, and DC Natalie Kershaw, who is English. Kiszka lives in London, where he is known as a ‘fixer’ among the members of that city’s Polish community. Kershaw works with the Met. Both Where the Devil Can’t Go and Death Can’t Take a Joke involve murders where both Polish and English people are concerned. In them, we see that crime isn’t just limited to one country. So authorities and civilians from different countries often have to work together to solve it.

There are also, of course, many thrillers that involve Interpol, the EU and other pan-European groups. And series such as Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis’ Nina Borg novels also show how European authorities negotiate and work together to solve crime.

And I don’t think a discussion of that sort of international co-operation would be complete without a mention of the television series The Bridge/Bron/Broen. In those series, Danish Inspector Martin Rohde and Saga Norén, who is Swedish, work together to solve cases of murder that occur on or near the bridge between the two countries.

International co-operation like that isn’t always easy. But when it happens, the result can be far greater success than any one country could have on its own.
On Another Note…


This post is in celebration of the amazing achievement of the European Space Agency (ESA). Yesterday the ESA succeeded in landing the probe Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We will all learn an incredible amount from this venture, and everyone involved in its success is to be congratulated. See? Co-operation can do wonders!

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Peter Gabriel’s Games Without Frontiers.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Agnete Friis, Anya Lipska, Bartholomew Gill, Helene Tursten, Lene Kaaberbøl, Stefan Tegenfalk

26 responses to “Hans Plays With Lotte, Lotte Plays With Jane*

  1. What a great idea for a post, Margot! I think of myself first and foremost as a European, rather than feeling a strong national allegiance.

    • Marina Sofia – Thank you. And it is interesting I think how people decide what their identities will be. Some people feel the pull of national identity and others don’t. Others, like yourself, have lived in many different places and so make fewer deep connections to one particular place. That in itself is a fascinating subject and great ‘food for thought.’

  2. Margot, in Marek Krajeski’s Eberhard Mock series, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, there is some cooperation between international police forces. The Minotaur’s Head is a classic example where Mock goes to Lwow, Poland from his base in Breslau, Germany to help Detective Popielski.
    I am a bit of cynic when it comes to international cooperation of police forces, after all Heydrich, Nebe and Kaltenbrunner were at times President of Interpol!
    Europe is complex and Breslau, Germany went on to become Wroclau in Poland, and Lwow Poland, was originally Lemberg, Austria-Hungary, and went on to become Lvov, Soviet Russia, and Lviv, Ukraine.
    We do move boundaries in your country and mine, but that is usually only to gerrymander the vote in elections.

    • Norman – Yes, it usually is. And you make a very good point about the complex and shifting face of Europe. History shows that boundaries, identities, and so on can change for any number of reasons. I think too that places like Breslau/Wroclau and Lemberg/Lwow/Lvov/Lviv have rich and interesting stories to tell, just because of the different influences in them. All of the boundary disputes (and worse) show that of course there isn’t always co-operation. And you’re right about Interpol! All that said though, I think there are cases when that sort of collaboration happens and the Krajeski series is an example. I’m glad you mentioned it too, as it’s a good reminder that I ought to spotlight one of those novels.

  3. Another interesting post, Margot. I have not tried Tegenfalk’s books yet, and I like the idea that it is a trilogy.

    • Tracy – Thank you. The Tegenfalk novels are thriller-ish, but at the same time, they’re police procedurals too. IT’s an interesting set of novels, in my opinion.

  4. Terrific post, Margot.

  5. Very timely post, since the British Parliament has just been discussing pulling out of the system of European Arrest Warrants. In fact, if Britain annoys them much more I think Europe will be sending us into space on ESA’s next available ship… 😉

    On a fictional note, Arne Dahl’s ‘Bad Blood’ shows the Swedish and US police co-operating to catch a serial killer who is suspected of having just flown into Sweden from America…

    • FictionFan – Thanks for that update. I’d been reading about it, but I didn’t feel well-informed. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s a really clear illustration of how many different things there are to work out when a group of nations as diverse as Europe try to work together. I hope passage on that ship won’t be arranged though… 😉
      And thank for reminding me of Bad Blood. Once again I’ve been given a welcome nudge about an author I want to spotlight.

  6. My list of books to read just got longer. All the books you profiled seem just the sort of books I would enjoy. Maybe I should stop coming here for a bit, because it only reminds me of how little time we have left in the world (compared to what we would like to do in that time).

    When I think international co-operation, the first thing that comes to mind is the Rush Hour series of movies with Jackie Chang and Will Smith. Though not a great fan of the TV, I always pause to watch when any of them is on.

    • Natasha – I really do wish we had more time to read more books. But as you say, there’s relatively little time to do all of the things we’d like.
      I’m glad you mentioned the Rush Hour films. They are a great example of bridging international gaps and co-operating to get things done. I hadn’t thought about films while I was writing this post; I’m glad you filled in that gap.

  7. Thanks for another really interesting post, particularly when the UK is looking at changing the way we do cooperate with the other European nations regarding arrests. Once again you have picked some books that I know I’d enjoy, top of my list are those written by Anya Lipska,

    • Cleo – Thanks for the kind words. The Anya Lipska novels are well-written in my opinion; I hope if you read them you’ll enjoy them. And it will be interesting to see how the question of arrest warrants plays out…

  8. Great theme for today’s post Margot (I would have to re-use the example of MY FRIED MARGOT of a frinedly rivalry) – and isn’t it amazing about the comet? Just stunned by that.

    • Sergio – I was stunned by it too. Really amazing! And thanks for the mention of My Friend Maigret. You’re right that there’s a friendly rivalry there, but I think the emphasis really is more on ‘friendly.’ I think they do work together fairly successfully.

  9. The comet landing was an amazing achievement – as you say, shows what we can do when we try.

  10. Kathy D.

    Comet landing was pretty amazing, leading to newspeople here discussing whether comets crashing caused water to exist on earth. Huh? I have to study that.
    But “Fried Margot?” What is that? The mystery novelist going without sleep for 48 hours? Or no coffee? Hope it’s not the case.
    Another case of inter-country cooperation: Commissaire Adamsberg going to Canada in Wash this Blood Clean from my Hand, and working with the police there. However, one of the funnest scenes ever written in crime fiction takes place in a Canadian bathroom with Adamsberg and a police woman. And it shows Fred Vargas’ quirky creativity.
    A lot of European crime fiction does involve inter-country cooperation among police agencies; after all, countries are just a train ride away, the borders within a short driving distance.
    Even Venice’s Commissario Brunetti’s squad has called upon Interpol and been contacted by those agents. Now Montalbano, does he cooperate with anyone? Not even his own Commissario?

    • Kathy – It’ll be really interesting to find out what we can learn from that comet. It’s quite an achievement that the probe was safely landed there.
      Thanks for mentioning the Fred Vargas novel too. You’re right of course that Adamsberg works with Canadian authorities in that novel. It doesn’t all go perfectly smoothly, but it is ultimately successful. And yes, Brunetti has worked with Interpol (and with authorities from other countries). Montalbano…not so much.

  11. Col

    I have only read the first book by Brian McGilloway – Borderlands which I think involved cross border co-operation between the Gardai in the Republic and the authorities in the North of Ireland – hopefully my memory is not false! I’m unfamiliar with your examples quoted, with none of them on the pile, for a change!

    • Col – Your memory is sound on this one! Garda Inspector Devlin has work with authorities in Northern Ireland to solve the case. That’s the sort of thing I had in mind with this post, so thanks for the example.

  12. I really need to watch The Bridge — I think is available now so I can start with Season 1.

  13. I’m glad you identified the song from this title. It was going around my head as I read the post. Although lots of people in this country criticise the EU it has brought about lots of cooperation. I definitely feel European as well as British.

    • Sarah – It’s one of those songs that stays with one, isn’t it? It’s interesting about the EU. As you say, lots of people have problems with it, but when you see those achievements such as the comet landing and some other developments, you see that some very good things can come out of that co-operation. And I’m not at all surprised, what with the travel you’ve done, and living in other countries, that you feel European as well as British.

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