About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

50. - 610.) The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1957) – This week’s Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass sponsored by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise is in the heart of EuropeSwitzerland. It was not easy to find a mystery in Saskatchewan that was set in Switzerland. Finally, I tracked down The Pledge at a branch of the Regina Public Library. When I looked at other posts at Mysteries in Paradise I see Lizzy Siddal has also written  a post on The Pledge. Her review is at http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/the-pledge-friedrich-durrenmatt/.


The unnamed narrator is an immediate draw for mystery blog reviewers. He is in Zurich to give a lecture on mystery novels when he meets the Chief of Police, Dr. H. While traveling together the Chief tells him the story of his former deputy, Matthai.

The police had been called to investigate the brutal murder of a young girl, Gritli Moser, in the forest outside the village of Magendorf. When killed she was wearing a red skirt and carrying a basket of pretzels. The killing provokes great anger in the village. Challenged by the girl’s mother to find the killer Matthai vows to find the killer.

Suspicion is concentrated on the peddler who found the body. Aggressive questioning produces a confession from him. Before Matthai and Dr. H. can check out the confession the peddler commits suicide.

All officialdom is prepared to accept the peddler as the killer but Matthai is convinced they have the wrong man and that there is a serial killer lurking in eastern Switzerland. Having made his pledge to find the killer he leaves the police force to follow his quest.

Matthai is a skilled and determined investigator whose life has been focused around his work. He now becomes obsessed with the search. It dominates his life. When all conventional investigational techniques fail he turns to a chilling unethical approach. Matthai cannot recognize his methods dishonour his pledge.

The book has an unexpected but logical conclusion.

It is not a complex mystery. It is a subtle work. Should a person change their life to carry out a promise? We all make promises. On occasion I have been unable to fulfill a promise. There is regret in failing to honour a promise. Normally people accept they cannot fulfill every promise. The book illustrates the consequences of refusing to accept a promise that cannot be honoured. (Sept. 12/11)


The paperbook cover said the book had been made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, Benicio Del Toro and Patricia Clarkson. The movie was made in 2001. On the cover above is a photo of Nicholson. Being Hollywood the movie setting was moved from Switzerland to Nevada. I am not sure whether our changes were made from the book. I have not seen it. Apparently I am not unique. The movie’s worldwide gross did not cover the cost of production. More information is available on the movie at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0237572/. Lastly the movie was filmed in Canada in British Columbia.


  1. It certainly seems this is a book to look for Bill, or rather Friedrich Dürrenmatt an author to watch out for. Many thanks for your contribution today

  2. Bill - Thanks for this recommendation. I enjoy it when a novel addresses some of those larger issues such as what exactly honour means and how far one should be willing to go to keep one's word. This one sounds as though it's not just a mystery but has some fascinating ethical and philosophical issues integrated as well. I'm intrigued...

  3. Kerrie: Thanks for the comment. Having read one of his books I will keep an eye out for another.

  4. Margot: I found the book made me somwehat uncomfortable. I admired Matthai's determination to achieve justice but he lost perspective.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.