The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus
Series: Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #3
Narrator: Robert Fass
Published by Blackstone Audio on January 13, 2015
Length: 14 hrs 38 mins
Purchase: Amazon • Audible
The body of ninety-two-year-old Jossi Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and American citizen, is found shot to death execution style in his house near Frankfurt. A five-digit number is scrawled in blood at the murder scene. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the corpse's arm, a blood type marker once used by Hitler's SS. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are faced with a riddle. Was the old man not Jewish after all? Who was he, really?
Two more, similar murders happen, one a wheelchair-bound old lady in a nursing home, the other a man with a cellar filled with Nazi paraphernalia, and slowly the connections between the victims become evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee, baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Pia and Oliver follow the trail, which leads them all the way back to the end of World War II and the area of Poland that then belonged to East Prussia. No one is who they claim to be, and things only begin to make sense when the two investigators realize what the bloody number stands for and uncover an old diary and an eyewitness who is finally willing to come forward.
First off, a minor complaint. Neuhaus’ series is being translated from German, but out of order. So the first I read was Snow White Must Die #4, then Bad Wolf #6, and now The Ice Queen#3. Each is a self-contained mystery, but Pia and Oliver’s personal lives come into play a fair amount and it’s a little odd going back in time to see where their relationships were, knowing how they change over time. It doesn’t bother me too much, but I feel like it would be a stronger series read in order.
The story is absorbing, a mystery involving an influential family and secrets that go back to WW2. The blurb above gives the basic plotline, but it gives you no idea of how inter-connected theses people’s lives are, how horrible their secrets are. It’s a large cast, and the narrator, Robert Fass, does a reasonable job. I found a few of his voices jarring, but I do understand that it can be difficult to keep that many people differentiated from each other. I like listening to translated mysteries, rather than reading them. The narrator is so smooth with the places and names that I would totally be stumbling over, and I just like the way they sound. Amber may have caught me repeating German towns and surnames on more than one occasion over the last couple days.
The mystery itself is well-done. There are a lot of suspects and a variety of motives that kept me guessing. I was honestly shocked by who the killer was, even though once the whole things was wrapped up it made complete sense. There are a lot of threads running through the story though, and people have different reasons behind their actions. It’s a difficult case for Pia and Oliver to sift their way through. But for once it’s the male officer who puts himself in a sticky situation that he ends up paying for, although his punishment is way more lenient than I think it should have been, at least from his wife’s point of view. Usually, at least in books I’ve read recently, it seems to be the woman who gets herself into a stupid dangerous situation. Pia does end up in danger, but not because of a bad decision she made, but because the other characters are making their own unrelated decisions at the same time.
This is a solid book, and, at least for me, an interesting look at how WW2 is still shadowing people’s lives. And a reminder not to underestimate people.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: