Monday, September 07, 2009

The return of Pufferfish

Pufferfish is coming back in a new book, and I couldn't be happier, because that means a return of one of the more entertaining and original crime-fiction protagonists of the 1990s.

David Owen's prickly Tasmanian police inspector, Franz "Pufferfish" Heineken, previously appeared in four novels:
Pig's Head (1994), X and Y (1995), A Second Hand (1995) and The Devil Taker (1997). The new book, to be published in December, is called No Weather for a Burial.

Here's a bit of what I wrote about Pufferfish back in the early days of Detectives Beyond Borders. It should give you an idea of why I'm glad the series will resume:

"I want to be Inspector Franz Heineken of the Tasmania Police Force, protagonist of David Owen's 1990s series and proud bearer of the nickname Pufferfish (`An ugly, poisonous scavenger known to bloat in times of distress,' according to one description). OK, I want to be everything but the `ugly' part.

"Pufferfish knows his boss is an oily, backstabbing careerist. Pufferfish recognizes that colleagues are vindictive and possibly bent. In
X and Y, the third of the four books in the series, Pufferfish has been shot at and set up to take the fall for a drug bust gone wrong. But he's not bitter, and he's not haunted. John Rebus and Matt Scudder would sidle away from this guy at a bar. He's too psychologically healthy.

"And that's what makes him such a standout protagonist. He works in a nest of vipers, but he's an amiable zoo guide, telling the reader about the snakes' habits, rather than worrying all the time about being swallowed up by them. His attitude of amusement leavens the contempt and anger enough to set him apart from the legions of police-procedural protagonists in similar situations. At the same time, he can survive very well among the reptiles, and he's not afraid to tell his boss where to get off, only in language a good deal coarser than that."

Here's a link to my previous posts (scroll down) about the series. Here's the entry on Owen at the Australian Crime Fiction Database, including reviews of the first four books.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger seana said...

Sounds like a wonderful character. I'm sorry to say that I don't know him.

September 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He's one of my favorite characters in crime fiction, and I suspect that not many people know him outside Australia. Perhaps that's no surprise, since the last Pufferfish book is more than ten years old.

The last of the books is a bit weaker than the others but for an interesting reason. Owen appears to have been more interested in the poaching and animal-preservation aspects of the story at the expense of narrative drive. In the years since, he has written at least one book in this area, so I'd guess that he simply got interested in things other than crime fiction for ten years or so and that his interest has now returned. I look forward to this new book.

September 08, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Lovely place Tasmania but I wonder how much actual criminality there is. The bars in Hobart closed at 10pm ... on Saint Patrick's Day.

September 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe that's why David Owen had to take ten years off -- not enough crime.

Arnaldur Indridason has said that the lack of crime in Iceland is a problem for Icelandic crime writers, but his own books prove that a good author can get around that.

September 08, 2009  

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