English translations of press clips: Blutfunde

 

Continuation required!
“Blood Finds” by Jutta Motz, published 2013 by Elster-Verlag, Zürich

I wouldn’t normally begin a discussion of a book by talking about the superficial aspects, but how often is it these days that one sees, outside of the bestseller circus, a well-constructed crime novel in a hard cover, with a dust jacket? That’s right, not very often!
Perhaps the tactile pleasure is intended to reassure readers disconcerted by the book’s disturbing theme? The Mediterranean as a mass grave for boat people - this is a difficult subject that might encounter resistance from readers. Cosmopolitan author Jutta Motz, however, has taken this theme and created a gripping thriller with believable characters and plenty of Italian ambience. The horror of the mass murders in the Mediterranean enters the picture when it “suits” a criminal gang in southern Italy to murder six boat people in a remote quarry. But there are witnesses … people who not only have their hearts in the right place but also have the right contacts. However, they have opponents – dangerous opponents. Plenty of intrigue ensues. The pragmatic auntie from southern Italy and the shrewd and courageous nun - with a mysterious item of luggage that is of interest to a number of shady characters – are unforgettable. For obvious reasons, I can’t explain here just how Jutta Motz resolves this tangle, but the battle of wits with the criminals is gripping and is written with considerable knowledge of the subject. My only criticism is that, in contrast to the strong figures of the two women helping them, most of the refugees appear rather weak. But then perhaps this could provide the idea for a follow-up novel – one written in vice versa, as it were, from the refugees’ perspective. I am sure that Jutta Motz would be the right person to write such a novel!

Dr. Ulrike Blatter
www.ulrike-blatter-krimi.de

 

Jutta Motz: Blutfunde, Human Jetsam, translated by John Raynor
Lampedusa and us

For many years, thousands of refugees have been fleeing to Europe via Tunisia and Libya, which offers the shortest route to their next destination Italy. And for many years, hundreds of people have perished - to seemingly universal indifference. Only in the wake of the Lampedusa boat tragedy has the problem started to make the mainstream news. But how long will that last? Having been investigating the disasters in the Mediterranean for several years, Jutta Motz wrote an enthralling novel focusing on the issue.
The Austrian publicist Beatrix Kramlovsky has read it:

On a stormy night in the Mediterranean refugees on a people-trafficking ship are forced overboard. Almost everyone drowns. Over the following sixteen days a spiral of violence, betrayal and a surprisingly efficient aid-response unfolds. Surprising, not only because of the Mafia-like structures lurking in the background, but also because of the shocking evidence of a large-scale international network of people-smugglers – to which too many political institutions are averting their eyes and abrogating their statutory responsibilities.
Embroiled in the tragedy are Hakim, an Egyptian police officer, Gioia, a Roman lawyer, her colleague Teo, her English girlfriend Jane and her fiancé John. Yet the real heroes of the story are a community of Carmelite nuns residing in a run-down monastery along the coast. They receive support by a local doctor and his wife and become engaged in a deadly game of hide-and-seek with a gang of cold-blooded murderers living in the same village, who now feel under threat. Not all the survivors from the shipwreck were shot dead and Hakim knows too much; as do many of the rescuers, who now find themselves in the crosshairs of this ruthless ring of human-traffickers anxious to protect their lucrative racket. A showdown is looming.
With her novel «Späte Seilschaften» Jutta Motz had already indicated notice that her interest as a crime novelist is not focused exclusively on the world of commerce and banking. In «Blutfunde» she highlights the failings of Europe and above all the blind impotence of the European courts and their perverted sense of justice. In operation for centuries, the traditional maritime rescue system governing shipwrecked survivors is being washed away beneath the constant flood of African and Arab refugees.

Jutta Motz has analysed the current legal situation, and spoken to those affected on the ground. Her epilogue and the attached bibliography attest to her exhaustive research. Based on her own investigative journalism, Motz's latest thriller is representative of a genre of crime fiction rarely found here, but common in the Anglophon world. She has succeeded in penning a suspenseful novel, which does not seek to moralize. It offers a delightful counterweight to the stereotypes which inevitably feature in any thriller set in the Mafia underworld. Jutta Motz has fashioned a convincing portrayal of the Carmelite nuns, with all their foibles, flaws and fears.

A qualified art-historian, the author breathes life and vigour into the venues and historical sites portrayed. Never do the descriptions of the localities and settings degenerate into a travelogue, but draw the reader further into the action. Having heard of the tragic plight of refugees only from the media, Jane and John are forced to take a moral stand. Will they be able to realise their ideas? Gioia and Teo, at once dreamers and pragmatists, set out to uncover loopholes in the legal minefield and combat injustice. Just how dangerous this undertaking can be is related by Jutta Motz in a taut narrative arc, abounding in fascinating details.

Condensed into a short time-span, the well-constructed plot, the random, interweaving quirks of fate befalling the protagonists mark out «Blutfunde» as a compelling page-turner. Is it permissible to break the law to rescue stranded refugees? Yes, according to a ruling handed down by a court in Italy in 2009 - which is in breach of current Italian legislation intended to by-pass this cornerstone of International Maritime Law. Elias Bierdel, ex-head of the relief ship «Cap Anamur» was eventually acquitted of aiding illegal immigrants. Together with the vessel's crew, he had taken 37 Africans to the shores of Sicily under dramatic circumstances. This novel revisits the authentic case of the «Cap Anamur» which, despite attracting scant public attention at the time, will now hopefully reach the broader audience it deserves.

Beatrix Kramlovsky

 

Human trafficking in the Mediterranean
buchmedia magazin | Spring 2013

Jutta Motz has taken up a much more dramatic and shameful topic – that of human trafficking, along with refugee aid workers, unscrupulous community leaders, and national and regional politics that have long since capitulated in the face of this problem. Hakim Mahmud, Cairo’s police chief, is determined to get to the bottom of the scandal and undertakes a dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean to Italy himself, disguised as a refugee. What he experiences is beyond belief. Out on the open sea, the refugees are all forced to transfer to another smaller boat, which is then deliberately rammed by the one they set sail in. “Somewhere between northern Africa and southern Italy, an old fishing boat sank with 200 refugees on board." This is the starting point of "Blood Find". Hakim and a few others are able to rescue themselves, but they're not welcome in Italy, particularly not in Apulia.

On her way back to the convent, Sister Annunziata makes a terrible discovery. She witnesses the brutal murder of six men, half-starved, soaked and ragged, in a nearby quarry. Among the perpetrators are the mayor and the village priest. It is clear to the convent's Mother Superior that she will act, but must do so very, very carefully, and so Hakim and the other survivors find shelter in the convent. Rescuing the little group ultimately requires the help of a few committed lawyers along with covert support from the Vatican and the British Embassy.

This plot is joined in the novel by other motifs that Jutta Motz weaves skillfully into the story, ranging from war crimes in Africa to corruption and the arms trade. At the same time, she emphasizes the fact that without civil courage and the compassion of ordinary people – even if they seem like nothing more than a drop in the ocean – there would be much more misfortune and misery in the world.

 

Bibliothekarische Dienste - Bibliographie
ekz-Publikation ID bzw. IN 2013/18

Tension and excitement are a bit lacking in Jutta Motz’s novel; her narrative style is a little too long-winded for that. Otherwise, however, this is a very interesting and compelling book about a very unusual criminal case: boat people, mainly women and children, who are simply thrown into the sea while en route to Italy. Those who survive strand at a convent where they are taken in, fed and receive medical care, but all this must be done secretly, because in this case the villains are the local authorities. When the nuns realize that more bodies are hidden under the rocks, they too are in danger.
Human rights activists from Rome want to help, civilians, an Egyptian police officer and even members of the military, but given the need for secrecy things become continually more difficult, especially since no one at the convent has medical training and the arms lobby is never very far away. The author (whose last novel was Späte Seilschaften (Old Boys’ Network), BA 1/09) has painstakingly researched the situation she describes and written a moving novel that arouses the reader’s anger at the helplessness so evident in matters of human rights and their implementation

Ulrike Kieser-Hess

 

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* translation: Mary Tannert