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This is a detective novel written before WW2 and set in Dutch Indies. I just picked it up at random and found it so hilarius that I devoured most of it during the evening and the next morning.
A dangerous contagious disease is discovered in a luxury hotel, and the hotel is quarantined, that is, surrounded by soldiers and nobody is allowed out. At the same time, a murder has been committed in the hotel, and the female hero finds in her room a man in pajamas who has run away from home in order to avoid getting married. Indeed, a large part of the comedy in this novel happens while that man is hiding and sneaking from room to room searching for suitable clothes, and overhearing all kinds of stuff in the process.
Mr. Rejto's writing style is not unlike Terry Pratchett's, and I think he's even funnier. (I'm serious.) That's why it's a real pity that this novel has three serious flaws: 1. Implausible foreign names. This book's characters come from a multitude of countries and the Hungarian author really hasn't done his homework. Maybe I am unreasonably oversensitive to un-lifelike names but I do think that some names in this book are bordering to absurd. 2. Too many characters. I quickly lost track who was who. I just kept reading because it was all so incredibly funny that I just couldn't stop. On second reading, however, I took a list of paper to write down names and descriptions, because remembering them all was just hopeless. 3. The ending. It is usual in detective novels that you'll learn a multitude of details, and in the last chapter, you are supposed to learn how they all are interconnected in an elaborate plot. Unfortunately, many authors (including Mr. Rejto) have this irritating habit of explaining it all on a couple of pages in the protagonist ueber-concentrated monologue (or almost-monologue). Can't the writers really realise that the reader just can't remember all that myriad of facts from the last couple hundred pages? Why not at least let the secret unravel in a dialogue, with some characters not quite remembering stuff and the others refreshing their memory? Why does a detective novel's last chapter feel like a movie played at 32x speed, so that almost after every half sentence I have to stop and think: wait a minute, what was THAT about?
In spite of those flaws, I am happy that I have found this terrific writer. I have thouroughly enjoyed Carlo Manzoni's books, but those are obviously parodies. "Quarantine in the Grand Hotel" is an absolutely serious detective novel but, amazingly, even funnier. I am excited to read his other works, which might prove hard to find, though.Read more ›