N is for Nele Neuhaus

Nele Neuhaus is a new author for me, which is reasonable, since Snow White Must Die is the first of her novels translated into English. According to her website, Neuhaus is a German writer who currently lives in the Vordertaunus region, where her crime thriller series featureing investigators Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff is set. Her series was originally self-published then the large Berlin publisher Ullstein discovered her and took her under contract. The series made her one of the most widely read crime writers in Germany. Her Taunus crime thrillers have so far reached a total circulation of 3.5 million copies, the rights have been sold to 20 countries, including Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Korea, Russia, Brazil, Poland, China, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece and the USA. There are currently six books in the series, and, based on Snow White Must Die, I’m hoping more of them are translated soon.

Snow White Must die

Title: Snow White Must Die

Author: Nele Neuhaus

Translated by : Steven T. Murray

Read by: Robert Fass

Category: Mystery- Police Procedural

Audio published: January 15, 2013 by AudioGo

Rating: 4½ out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

On a rainy November day, Detective Inspector Pia Kirchoff and Detective Superintendent 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.

Ah, small towns can be scary places. This one is full of secrets, jealousies, and lies. It’s pretty clear to the reader that Tobias was innocent when he was convicted, so the question becomes who did kill Snow White, the nickname that was given to one of the girls who he was convicted of killing. In a town so self-contained, with people so aware of all they have to lose, the police have a hard time finding the truth.

Pia and Oliver are dedicated detectives, but they also have personal lives. This is not the first in the series, just the first to be translated, and I think while it seemed like were just dumped in the middle of their problems, in reality we would have gotten to know them through the previous books. It stands fine on its own, don’t get me wrong, it just has a lot of the private lives that interrupts the flow of the mystery, but makes sense if we care about them as characters.

The townspeople, including Tobias, are well done, even though most of them were simply not nice people, small-minded, judgemental, violent, but mostly scared, I guess.

As far as the mystery goes, it kept me guessing. I would think I knew who did it and then would be wrong, or only partly right, depending on how you look at it. It’s a complicated story with lots of people basing their actions and assumptions on their own little pieces of the puzzle. Even with all the tangled threads, the plot keeps pushing forward. It has that oppressiveness that I find compelling, and a drive forward to an ending that I couldn’t predict.

I tend to like listening to translated mysteries as opposed to reading them in print. I would have stumbled over the places and not given names the same pronunciation the reader did. I enjoyed the narrator, or rather almost forgot about him. He allowed me to be sucked into the story without noticing his voices or accents, it just fit.

This was just a very enjoyable read. One complaint, I thought that the general attitude toward rape and sex with underage girls was more relaxed than I would have like to see. However, like I said, I’m hoping more of this series make is to America soon. I’ll definitely be reading them.

For the record, Snow White is already dead.

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