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Monday, June 2, 2014

The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel

I'm always on the look-out for German crime novels translated into English and was thrilled to find The Murder Farm on Edelweiss.
"With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel.”
--The Times Literary Supplement
This is Schenkel's first novel. It was a best-seller in Germany, selling over 300,000 copies, and was also made into a movie directed by Bettina Oberli.

Murder Farm is based on a real-life 1922 murder of a family on their farm in Bavaria, Germany. Schenkel moves the crime to the post-WWII time period, which creates more tension for contemporary readers.

Schenkel
This is one of those novels that is a choppy mosaic of scenes rather than a smooth, consistent narrative, so it's not your typical mystery novel and may not appeal to those who want to lose themselves in a story. But don't get me wrong--it's very engaging.

You get bits and pieces of the various characters' personalities--from their own thoughts to what other characters think of them coupled with bits of local history and rumor. Prejudices, egos, delusions, and social taboos mess with the reader's ability to get a clear sense of not only who the characters are, but who the murderer might be.

I tend to prefer a straightforward narrative story when it comes to crime novels, but I enjoyed the way Schenkel and her translator (Anthea Bell) create vivid atmospheres and a strong sense of personality with so few words. I'll keep my eye out for more of Schenkel's books coming out in English.

Of course you can't help but think of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood when reading this novel.

The Murder Farm
Andrea Maria Schenkel
Translated from German by Anthea Bell
Quercus, US release date: June 3, 2014
Source: review copy via Edelweiss
3.5/5 stars (4 on Goodreads because I round up)

2 comments:

  1. curious: is there any special characteristic to German mysteries that you don't find in American mysteries?

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    Replies
    1. I haven't read enough of them to feel very confident in answering your question, but I think I've noticed less self-consciousness in the writing. Less apology when it comes to the reality of prejudice, sexism, and such. Mainly I just enjoy the places and situations, especially when they weave in historic cultural situations (like the Polish forced laborers in this book that I didn't mention in the review--I had an uncle who was in that situation).

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