La malédiction de Barberousse (Paul Halter)

By Paul Halter

First published: France, privately published, 1986


My review

Set in Alsace in the 1940s, with a theme of Alsatian hatred of the Germans. A young German girl is murdered on top of a tower, apparently by the ghost of Barbarossa, whose curse fell on those who insulted his memory or the town of Haguenau. The protagonist is a young man (now living in London ) who was a boy at the time of the murder.  is brother sees the girl’s ghost, and he himself sees her spirit while trapped in a London telephone cabinet.  So he calls in Halter’s Dr. Twist, a thin version of Carr’s Gideon Fell. 

The book itself is rather mixed. The solution to the murder in the tower is simple and quite clever, but the truth about Barbarossa’s curse is artistically very bad: SPOILER it was all made up.  The murderer’s identity is effective, but Halter uses the same gimmick several times in his early work, so the experienced reader will be able to guess the truth early on.  It’s a device that I never want to see again.