The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

May 27, 2014

Peter Zeindler

[Continuing my series of little posts on winners of the Deutscher Krimi Preis. Peter Zeindler already has an English Wikipedia page, so I have (rather badly) translated a recent news article on him.]

At the center of Peter Zeindler's latest detective story, Die weisse Madonna is once again the retired Secret Service Agent Konrad Sembritzki. Whoever is aware of other novels by Peter Zeindler also knows Sembritzki - he has already been the protagonist of several other spy novels by Zeindler.

Peter Zeindler was born in Zurich in 1934. He studied German, and worked as a journalist, presenter and author of radio and television plays. As a crime writer, he established himself in the 1980s: he wrote of KGB agents in Cold War settings even before genre of crime fiction in Switzerland became a vogue.

The latest case begins on a dull February evening: Konrad Sembritzki gets a mysterious phone call. The caller calls Sembritzki to a secret meeting in Einsiedeln; except that this meeting never happens: the caller is found murdered.

This is where Sembritzki's investigation begins. They lead him to the monastery church in Einsiedeln, a psychiatric clinic at Lake Constance, and from the island of Reichenau to Berlin, and then into far-right circles. This is not a high voltage thriller; rather, it is steeped in an eerie atmosphere. And yet, the reader will want to know how this story will end.

Swiss colour and international flair

Peter Zeindler is one of the most successful crime writers from Switzerland. Central to his success is that, from early on, he wrote spy novels with a Swiss flavour. His novels had from the beginning not only a Swiss atmosphere, but also a lot of international flair. His secret agents were Swiss and much of the action was set behind the Iron Curtain. Zeindler's books appealed as well to a wider readership in German-speaking countries.

(Indeed, Zeindler is the most successful Deutscher Krimi Preis winner, having obtained it four times for Der Zirkel (1986), Widerspiel (1988), Der Schattenagent (1990), and Feuerprobe (1992).)

An anti-hero, not a James Bond

One of the ingredients of Zeindler's success is his deft characterisation. Konrad Sembritzki offers the reader a high degree of identification: unlike, say, James Bond, for whom everything is easy, Sembritzki a very grounded character: a melancholic man, plagued by self-doubt, he suffers in the world, and the women with whom he'd like to succeed want no relationship with him.

For decades, Peter Zeindler has been publishing his masterly books, and they have never diminished in quality. Zeindler has remained Zeindler, an established brand with its own undying fan base. 

(From Schweizer Radio und Fensehen, "Peter Zeindler feiert seinen 80. Geburtstag mit einem neuen Krimi", February 18, 2014.)


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