Studying those Mock covers brought home to me what wonderfully vivid characters have come onto the crime fiction scene in the last few years. I have always thought that characters are far more important than plots in providing a great reading experience. But it is important that those characters are a good fit in their period and their location. Philip Kerr's seemingly out of place 'Marlowe like' creation Bernie Gunther works well in the Nazi Germany setting simply because the Nazis were a group of gangsters, who instead of running a scam in LA were incredibly running a country.
Larry Beinhart in his book How to Write a Mystery talks about creating characters to suit a theme, or the subject matter, as an alternative to using a real person and modeling your character on them. Of course an example of the later is Arthur Conan Doyle using his medical school professor Joseph Bell for his Sherlock Holmes and adding a few quirks such as his addiction to morphine.
We are very lucky that two very original characters who fit their period and their theme so perfectly, Lisbeth Salander and Eberhard Mock, have been created, quirks and all, for us to enjoy. [scroll down after clicking on those links for all my previous posts about these characters]
They are not in the least like Raymond Chandler's image of his detective described in the essay, The Simple Art of Murder; "He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world".
Or "He must be, to use a weathered phrase be, a man of honor-......".
These new heroes or anti heroes could not be more different.
Lisbeth Salander, a child like vulnerable, bisexual, tattooed, pierced, motor bike riding computer hacker who will use extreme violence if she feels justified. She is certainly justified with some of the people she meets in the books. I hope we get more Salander and less Blomqvist in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. Eberhard Mock, an alcoholic depressive brutal wife-beating policeman who is interested in the classics, astrology, chess and prostitutes, and who administers harsh justice without recourse to the legal system. I am looking forward to more in this series with its back stories and slightly rambling eccentric plots.
The two characters are a perfect fit to operate within their respective societies, societies damaged by abuse, the destruction of the family, lack of respect for authority, war and a subsequent breakdown in moral codes.
Salander's world may not be exactly the same as Mock's harsh post war Weimar and then Nazi Germany, but to her an abused person treated with contempt by society it must seem pretty close. Although Mock is in harmony with his decadent world, and Salander is the typical outsider they both have the skills to survive in a harsh environment.
I think both characters are fantastic and along with Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, Salvo Montalbano and Harry Hole show we are definitely in a golden age for translated crime fiction.
Who are your favourite characters, and are they a good fit for their worlds?