How not to give the game away – in Czech

One of the challenges of writing a crime novel is to slip in enough clues to keep the reader – and the sleuth – guessing, while not giving away so much that there are no surprises at the end. I never really know whether I’ve got the balance right until someone else reads it.  Husband, having suffered endless “what-if” conversations during the writing process, already knows Who Dun It, so the someone is usually the agent.  My agent is a perceptive reader who doesn’t miss much, so on the occasion when she reached the bottom of the final page and STILL wasn’t entirely sure who the murderer was… I knew I’d erred too far on the side of caution.

At least I usually know where the clues are. Or rather, I thought I did.  I’ve recently had an interesting exchange of emails with the Czech translator, Viktor Janis, who’s working on the first book. Amongst the sort of questions translators ask, which are usually technical stuff about the Romans, there was one about language. There’s a point where Priscus, the hospital administrator, refers to someone whose job title, in English, is a generic term.  The character could be male or female. Not so in Czech. There isn’t a word that’s suitably vague, and as Viktor pointed out, to come down on one side or the other would give away more than either Ruso or the reader needs to know at that point.

We agreed a way round it, but it occurred to me that a translator who wasn’t as sharp might not have spotted the significance of the exchange. I’m grateful to Viktor for plucking out a totally unintentional and mistimed clue.

Here’s where to find the Czech edition of Ruso and Tilla’s first adventure, which will be published very soon.

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