Herr Glauser’s meat consists of his treatment of Studer as the détective manqué: Laduner has kept so many secrets that he makes it impossible for Studer to do his job. His understanding of how the minds of schizophrenics and neurotics grows, but he does become compelled eventually, by the mythos of Matto, the demon who makes all consciousness and life miserable. At one point, Dr. Laduner obliquely supports the demon’s existence when he says the success of radical political movements is really the revenge of the psychotic.
The real characters of “In Matto’s Realm” get off fairly easy, Studer included, since one young man dies virtually in custody. I didn’t quite get the neat conclusions we like to see in murder mysteries, although that’s probably partly me and partly the translation (by Mike Mitchell). It’s a well-paced mystery, with a touch of modern forensics; its treatment of psychological disorders seems logical and straightforward; but its conclusion left me non-plussed. Does Detective Studer accept or even believe Dr. Laduner’s explanation of events? Is the doctor ever called to account for obstruction? Does the doctor ever come to realize the true service Studer has rendered him? I feel tepid about this book but respectful of its author, a onetime inmate of mental institutions himself.