In a special international interview, German thriller writer Kathrin Lange recently sat down with Switzerland’s breakout crime writer Monika Mansour, to talk about Mansour’s debut release, Liebe – Sünde – Tod (Love – Sin – Death).
Liebe – Sünde – Tod has two completely different settings. On the one side, the world of nightclubs and prostitution, on the other, the hard life of truckers. How did you decide on this contrast of settings?
It was clear from the beginning that my police team is from Lucerne, a very safe place, but I wanted a murder in a red light district. And therefore Zurich’s Langstrasse was an ideal setting. I grew up just outside Zurich and live now in Lucerne. So those two places were perfect for my first crime novel. And to connect these two places, the truckers were just what I needed.
Your protagonist Cem Cengiz is Turkish, but was raised and works in Switzerland. What prompted you to give him this background?
Switzerland is not only that cliché of mountains, lovely cows, and cheese. Around twenty percent of the people living in Switzerland are not native. Our little country is multicultural. And this is what I wanted to show. We have many people who grew up in Switzerland with parents from other cultures. We call them ‘Secondos’. Cem is one of them. I wanted to show that conflict of living and working as a Swiss, but still feel, in his case, as a Turkish, when he’s sitting with his family. I know this conflict myself. My husband is Egyptian. And where we live, there are families from Turkey, Iraq, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Syria, and some Swiss too. A mix of cultures. And I love it. When you’re willing to meet all these people, it is really fascinating how it opens your eyes to the world.
Cem is an extremely self confident man. Can you tell us about how you created him?
I wanted him to be different from other characters in crime novels I’ve been reading. Often you find the protagonist with a dark past, sort of frustrated, tough, and hard boiled. Cem is different. He is young, funny, and enthusiastic. And naïve. Still a boy, refusing to grow up. He believes in the slogan ‘the police, your friend and helper’, as we say here in Switzerland. He becomes a policeman to catch the bad guys and help people. He has a good heart. Too good for his job. Sure, he has to learn that life as a policeman is everything but glorious.
Readers will be fascinated with your description of police work in Switzerland. For instance, you write that there has been only one killing in Lucerne within a year. Is Lucerne really such a secure place?
It is. Lucerne is really safe. And it is a beautiful city. With the lake and the mountains in the background the perfect picture of peaceful and safe Switzerland. And therefore a tourist attraction. In summertime you hear more Chinese than Swiss-German in the streets of the old town of Lucerne. Zurich is different. It is much bigger—and it has a red light district.
You spent some time in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Are you planning to write novels that take place in one of these countries? Can you give us some information about your next novel? Will Cem Cengiz return?
I love travelling. And who knows, maybe one day I will write a thriller where the protagonist has to chase the villain through half the world. That would be a good opportunity to bring in all the places I have seen so far. I know Egypt pretty well and spent some time in Beijing too to study Chinese. I just need to find the story now….
Back to my actual writing. Yes, Cem will return. The sequel is already written and will be out in autumn 2015. This time, it is playing in the countryside of Lucerne, bringing farmers, tattoo artists, and the Chinese Triads into the game.
Right now, I am writing a thriller, playing in the alps in the near future. That’s all I can say for now…
From Monica: “I was born in 1973 in Winterthur, Switzerland. Although I’ve always written with passion, I decided to go for a safe job and became an optician. But I needed some adventure and to discover the world. Over a year I spent in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. I have been in Thailand and Beijing. When I visited Egypt, I found my true love. Now I am married to my pharaonic husband and we have a wonderful son who keeps us busy. And of course I write. And my fantastic journey as a writer has just begun…”
To learn more about Monica, please visit her website.