The Stages

One of Auntie M’s favorite books in past years was Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. So when she was offered a chance to read Thom Satterlees’ The Stages, she knew she would enjoy the chance to follow an adult character with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Daniel Peters is an American translator living in Copenhagen and working at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center. He’s become known as one of the philosopher’s best translators, and frequently lapses into interior monologues with the reader about what Kierkegaard has to say on a particular subject. His mentor and friend, and former love, Metta Rasmussen, is also his supervisor, who has diagnosed correctly, helped him learn techniques to handle living in a world where he doesn’t ‘get’ social clues, facial tics or body language. There’s a defined rhythm to his days and habits, including a propensity for eating danishes, and where better to find them?

Then the unthinkable happens: Mette is found murdered, and a new manuscript he’d been translating has been taken. Daniel was the last person to see her alive, but although he comes under suspicion, he thinks he’s able to persuade a female detective that he’s innocent. But it means she needs him to help with her investigation, if only to help him clear his name. And as he does that, he needs to learn how to express his grief for the friend he’s loved and lost.

Stepping outside his comfort zone is a mild way of describing how Daniel must act and react in this compelling mystery set inside a totally different world to most readers. It’s a satisfying read and one that brings Copenhagen alive on the pages.

Satterlee speaks Danish, and lived with a family in Denmark for his junior year in high school. The informs the novel with a vast sense of reality. Reading and understanding Kierkegaard is an entirely different matter, yet it’s obvious Satterlee has more than a grasp of the iconic philosopher’s life and work. Who would have thought an author could create a mystery surrounding Soren Kierkegaard and make it compelling and highly entertaining at the same time–Thom Satterlee did, and it’s a worthy accomplishment.