In Matto’s Realm takes place in a Swiss mental hospital in the mid 30s. The protagonist, Sergeant Studer, was once a police detective inspector, but was fired from his position owing to the machinations of a con man / banker. Now Studer is a lowly detective sergeant with a bemused and only partly resigned view of life.
He is called to the mental hospital when the hospital director and a patient disappear on the same night. The acting director asked for Studer by name, having met him some years earlier. The early parts of the novel seem sleepy, lethargic, almost dream-like, as Studer adjusts himself to the disturbing surroundings.
As the novel develops you get a sense of why the auther, Glauser, might be called the German Simenon. The Studer character has much of the empathetic character of Maigret. He deals with people as people, and not merely as witnesses and possible suspects. He tries, often successfully, to understand the motivations of people.
The novel pulls you in. And it keeps you guessing - there are a number of surprises on the very last page. I’m looking forward to reading the other Glauser novel published by Bitter Lemon Press.