German fiction

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Snow White Must Die – Nele Neuhaus

Published February 16, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.

What did I think?:

Nele Neuhaus is a very successful author in Germany, however along with a stand-alone thriller called Swimming With Sharks, this is the first of her books to be translated into English. It also happens to be the fourth in her series starring detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein. I do hate reading series out of order, and a similar thing happened with Jo Nesbo where his novel The Redbreast was the first to be translated into English. However, I decided to put my faith in the Richard and Judy Book Club when it was chosen to be part of their Autumn Reads 2013, and consoled myself with the fact that I probably haven’t missed much. Luckily I was right, this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, but I am eager for the past three books to be translated, to get a bit more information on the characters back stories.

The story focuses on a young man called Tobias Sartorius who was convicted of the brutal double murder of two young girls, his ex-girlfriend Laura and the beautiful Stephanie (aka Snow White). He has served his time and when we meet him, he is returning to the small German village where the atrocities were committed that he has no memory of returning to his family home. Things aren’t easy for him though, he gets home to find his fathers land practically derelict, his mother nowhere to be found and his usually thriving business ruined. While in prison, the local villagers had been treating his father abysmally, blaming the Sartorius family for the actions of the son, and unfortunately their bad behaviour and attitude only gets worse with the return of Tobias. At first, it’s the usual dirty looks, whispered conversations and incriminating graffiti, then it turns slightly more sinister as we realise that someone wants to keep the events of that fateful evening firmly under wraps. Because guess what? Tobias did NOT do it. His only support is Nadia, a childhood friend who has staunchly stuck by him since the beginning, and a young girl called Amelie who he forms an instant connection with and holds an eerie resemblance to Stephanie/Snow White. Then when she goes missing in suspicious circumstances, history seems to be repeating itself all over again.

I was initially drawn to this novel because of the title, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. I’m quite a big crime/thriller fan as it is, but this almost felt like crime writing on a whole other level! The intricate plot line, twists and turns, and engrossing characters pulled me in and didn’t let me go and I loved how the author paced the “thrilling” moments with some slower character building episodes. This had the effect of making me believe by the time I finished the novel that I was parting with old and beloved friends. Some parts of the plot are fairly complex and convoluted, but this made it all the more interesting as I tried to figure out what exactly was going on. I cannot wait until the first three books of this series are translated into English and then I’m certain I will be devouring them also.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0