Susie Dent

Main villain: the aftermath of war

Most crime novels offer a curious kind of escape, to places that jag the nerves and worry the mind. Their rides of suspense give a good thrill, but it’s rarely a comfortable one. If it’s cosy detection we’re after, we usually look to the past, as Dylan Thomas clearly did: ‘Poetry is not the most

It’s not nice being used and abused

The term ‘psychological thriller’ is an elastic one these days, tagged liberally on to any story of suspense that explores motivations while keeping blood and chainsaws to a minimum. In many cases, the line between a thriller and a crime novel has become too blurred to be useful. In the novels of Nicci French, however,

What family life — and love — was like in East Germany

Historians still argue over whether the regime of the GDR can be called a totalitarian one. Some say that the definition reduces the difference between the Socialist Unity Party and National Socialism —that the Nazis left millions dead while the SED left millions of Stasi files. It’s a loaded question, and one that will occur


Mark Twain had a notoriously thorny relationship with German, a language he gamely tried to conquer. His main beef was with its knotty grammar: ‘Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his

What’s in a Surname, by David McKie – review

In South Korea, some 20 million people share just five surnames. Every one of Denmark’s top 20 surnames ends in ‘-sen’, meaning ‘son of’, a pattern that is replicated across Scandinavia. British surnames have never favoured such neatness, and we can be grateful for that. While we may have lost such delightfully chewy names as