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Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St…

Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf's Church (original 2010; edition 2016)

by Indrek Hargla (Author)

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422273,462 (3.42)2
Title:Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf's Church
Authors:Indrek Hargla (Author)
Info:Peter Owen Publishers (2016), Edition: 1st, 256 pages
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Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf's Church by Indrek Hargla (2010)



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This English translation actually pissed me off, so that is the reason for the 3 out of 5 rating, although I gave the Estonian original Apteeker Melchior ja Oleviste mõistatus a 5 out of 5 as i very much enjoyed the characters and the plot.

Mysteries in general, mediaeval settings, Estonian authors and translations from Estonian are some of my touchstones. So it was especially disheartening to see this 1st English language translation of the Apothecary Melchior series of mediaeval mystery novels undermined by faulty copy editing. I started marking the typos and mistranslations about halfway through after they had started to bug me. So the list below is likely not complete as I only quickly rescanned the first half.

Probably a glossary would have helped as well, especially in the case of untranslated words such as the obscure volume measurement of a "tünder" (133 litres) on pages 212 & 222 and obscure coins such as the Gotland ørtug, the Tallinn artig, & the Polish grosz. But I guess that is what wikipedia is for.

The cover also seems a bit off, the blotchy black on the right hand side looks as if the printing was smeared, although perhaps it was an intended artistic effect.

I would have hoped for future improvements but I am 40 pages into the English translation of the 2nd Melchior called Apothecary Melchior and the Ghost of Rataskaevu Street and there are already 3 typos in those first few pages. Hey anybody at Peter Owen Publishers, I would read these for you for free! Your editor seems to only be doing automated spellchecks.

Note: I've read other translations by Adam Cullen and they have been perfect (e.g. The Cavemen Chronicle by Dalkey Archive Publishers), so I really think the fault is with the publisher / editor here.

Stray Observations
- Indrek Hargla does a terrific job of incorporating mediaeval urban legends of Tallinn into his mystery plots and also makes an effort at research into historical characters where appropriate. The character Spanheim really was once the Grand Master of the Tallinn Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order although it was in the year 1415 and not 1409 when the novel takes place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livonia...
- There seems to be some foreshadowing that Apothecary Melchior will found the Tallinn Town Apothecary store on Town Hall Square which is historically dated back to 1422. At least Melchior seems to have it as a future goal. https://www.visitestonia.com/en/town-...
- The Curse of the Melchior Wakenstede male line is unexplained but I imagine it as some sort of migraine headache. Perhaps a future book clarifies it further.

Typos / Mistranslations
pg. 55 “...and the Order had further fortified it further, …”
pg. 55 “…Ruprecht was said to have entered the Teutonic Order as young boy…”
pg. 65 “The Danes were hacked to pieces within the church and stacked their corpses on the altar…”
pg. 127 “…you are at the sea’s mercy when are a sailor…”
pg. 179 “…because he did not have to go far to go…”
pg. 186 “…is unlikely to able to counter…”
pg. 205 “I’d already came to that conclusion…”
pg. 230 “…a Court servant who had had been looking for him.”
pg. 249 “- he didn’t show his face it to strangers -“
pg. 256 “And the there was the fact…”
pg. 256 “…the confessor could have been Wigbold…” = the word “not” is missing, either a typo or a mistranslation? In any case, this is the exact opposite of what was in the original Estonian.
pg. 259 “…so tried it out on Tweffell’s horse…”
pg. 261 “I asked myself whether it could someone who…”
pg. 278 “…so what could I to do then?" ( )
  alanteder | May 31, 2016 |
Hargla is my most read and most loved Estonian author. His "Apteeker Melchior ja Oleviste mõistatus" is the first Estonian Gothic crime novel, the bloody events of which take place in Tallinn in the 15th century. Brutal murders disrupt the otherwise peaceful life in the city and Apothecary Melchior is called upon to help find out whodunit. Hargla's ability to take fairly typical characters and ideas and use them to create something unique and familiar at the same time is what I probably most enjoy about his books.
1 vote Jaidelle | Jan 9, 2011 |
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