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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 May 2007
The original 1958 edition of this novella was subtitled "A Requiem for the Detective Novel" -- a nugget of context unfortunately missing from this attractive new edition. This absent subtitle is rather important, because it very clearly identifies the taut little tale as one that challenges the traditional arc (crime, investigation, solution) of detective fiction. While the story does follow this arc, the "solution" subverts the qualities of reason, logic, heroism, and determination that are so often extolled in crime fiction -- and by doing so it acts as a critique of the modern era.

The plot is very simple, a little girl is found murdered in some woods on the outskirts of a small Swiss town. A master police detective on his last week of work before leaving on a plumb foreign contract takes the case, and, per the title, promises the mother of the slain girl that her daughter's killer will be brought to justice. A suspect is brought in and confesses, but the detective isn't satisfied, and pursues his pledge to the edge of madness.

The framework for the story is a little clunky, as it's related by the detective's former boss to an anonymous mystery writer. Some of the details also aren't crystal clear, for example, the murder is referred to as a "sex" crime, but it's also clearly established that there was no sexual element. However, these are minor points that should not obscure the power of the novella's grip, which, as others have pointed out, has echoes of Camus.

Note: The book has been adapted for film and television no less than six times! In reverse order, The Pledge (2001, USA) , Es Geschah am Hellichten Tag (1997, Germany), The Cold Light of Day (1996, UK/Netherlands) , Posledneye delo komissara Berlakha (1988, USSR) , La Promessa (1979, Italy) , Es Geschah am Hellichten Tag (1958, Germany).
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VINE VOICEon 3 October 2009
A child is horrifically murdered in the Swiss Canton of Zurich and the investigating officer promises his 'soul' to the grieving mother that he will catch the killer; he gives her his 'pledge'.

The officer is Matthai regarded as a genius by his boss the Chief of Police who is now the narrator of this tale from his position in retirement. The Chief recounts the devastating impact on Matthai's life as the struggle to fulfill this pledge overwhelms him. That is the simple story and it is told in a simple style. The book is shortish, reportage and often chapters are little more than a few paragraphs long.

In fact, Durrenmatt is really making a literary point about crime writing rather than this being a great crime novel in its own right. The Chief believes that crime writers rely totally on 'plot' and 'logic alone' whereas real police work relies on 'professional luck and pure chance'. His (Chief/Durrenmatt) story of the pledge is designed to undermine certain writers, Poe inter alia, who seem to argue 'mathematical formulae' can solve real criminal events.

This latter point is given piquancy by the fact that the Chief is narrating this story to the reader via a crime novelist he has bumped into at a conference. The writer having just given a lecture to the public on the art of crime writing. Very clever,eh? An unusual, dark read.
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on 29 December 2013
This novel is intended as an attack on the traditional detective story in the manner of Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie and the belief that crimes can be solved though logic, reason, deduction and scientific methods. Duerrenmatt sees this approach as a lie, as a sham, as a swindle. Such stories with happy endings which tie up neatly all the loose ends convey the false impression that everything is right with the world and uphold the social status quo. They also deny the role of chance. Duerrenmatt shows how a master detective's cleverly laid plans come unstuck because of an unfortunate accident and how this chance event drives him to despair. Without mentioning it as such, Duerrenmatt anticipates Chaos Theory and the view that we have no real control over our universe. He has produced a very fine novel which provokes many questions. RIP the traditional crime story! RIP Switzerland's greatest author!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 November 2012
A police officer doesn't accept the apparently undisputable evidence that the murderer of a young girl is the one accused by almost the entire population of a village. He promises the parents to find the real culprit and leaves the police force in order to settle as a private detective.

The search for the killer becomes the obsession of his life. Knowing that this is not the first such killing in the region and that one of the prime suspects is a man traveling in a big American car, he opens a gas station. In addition, he gets involved in a relationship with a woman with a little girl, which he uses as bait. Will he prove that public opinion and its apparent good reasoning are wrong? Will he find the culprit and held his promise?

This fascinating thriller about `death and living' is based on an original screenplay by the author (which is slightly different from the novel). The movie was directed by Ladislao Vajda ('It Happened in Broad Daylight'). The movie shot by Sean Penn, 'The Pledge', however, was based on this novel.
Highly recommended reading.
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on 22 January 2010
Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Pledge is a tale of the fall of a brilliant Swiss detective. The denouement is somewhat pat, but the analysis of the detective's psyche is very good. A little girl is savagely murdered and the detective makes a promise to her mother that he will find the killer. When a suspect is arrested and he subsequently commits suicide, everybody is satisfied that the case is closed, even the victim's parents. But the detective is not convinced, and against all evidence and in the face of his superiors' disapproval, he lays an intricate trap to catch the killer. He is so obsessed with this plan that he doesn't mind sacrificing everything he has - his reputation, his relationships, even his 'adopted' family - to fulfil his pledge. The plan fails and he loses his mind, and when the explanation arrives (a bit contrived), it is far too late to save the detective. This is a small book, a quick but agonising read, and well worth for its insight into the extremes of human nature.
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on 27 April 2016
This book is the English translation of the original Das Versprechen and to keep my German up to a satisfactory level I sometimes read a book written in German. Due to the fact that I am limited in my free time I find it useful to read through the English version before reading the German. I usually purchase the CD for the book so that all the words of the German are spoken by a native. The German printed book and the associated CD's I bought through Amazon DE ( Deutschland). Using Amazon I can quickly obtain everything I need to increase my listening and reading ability of German.
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on 3 January 2013
Arrived promptly in good condition. The book is a beautifully written study of a detective's obsession with a past case. If you like the book try the film!
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on 30 July 2014
A very short novel about a cop hunting like a crazy man a serial killer. I watched the film recently with Nicholson and was gripped. Now having read the book I understand the film's ending. Very frustrating as well but an interesting murder investigation that is very on the edge. The book is much cheaper on ebay than here.
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