If the success of Stieg Larsson and the resulting surge in American interest in Scandinavian crime fiction has led to increased availability of mysteries and thrillers translated into English from all across Europe, then I say: Bring it on. I suspect that’s part of what’s behind the American publication of Snow White Must Die, which is actually Book 4 in a series of six so far that are already bestsellers in Germany and elsewhere. It’s the first of Nele Neuhaus’s books to be translated into English and published in the United States, and I hope we can look forward to further titles in this series making the Atlantic crossing.
For me, it’s been a treat to listen to a story set in contemporary Germany. The locale is fresh and unfamiliar, offering a welcome change of scenery. The investigative team of Pia Kirschhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein, members of the police department in Frankfurt, first become aware that something unsavory is afoot in the nearby tiny hamlet of Altenhain when a woman is pitched off a highway overpass, killing a driver and putting her in a coma with a massive number of broken bones and internal injuries. Who pushed her, and why? As terrible as this crime is, it turns out to be just a clue that puts the detectives on the trail of a much bigger story.
Tobias Sartorius is emerging from prison at around the same time as this, having served 10 years for the double murder of two female classmates in Altenhain, just after graduating from high school. His memory of the evening of the crime is a total blank, and Tobias has never been fully convinced that he actually committed the murders. It seems that everyone else in the village is certain that he did it, however, and he comes home to his parent’s house to find that they have been made to suffer while he was incarcerated, and that the residents of Altenhain plan to make Tobias continue paying for the crime as well.
But what really happened to Stefanie Schneeberger and Laura Wagner on that night 11 years ago? How much did Tobias have to do with the young women’s disappearance, who else may have been involved, and why were the bodies never recovered? Nele Neuhaus spins a good crime story, adding to the suspense and increasing the reader’s involvement by using multiple narrative points of view and revealing information in tantalizing bits and pieces. The Kirchhoff/Bodenstein cop team are an appealing pair, and American readers can hope that more titles in the series will be translated into English and published stateside.
Robert Fass’s narration has the tendency to zoom from flat to melodramatic with startling speed at times … but then, so do some of the characters in this chilly Teutonic tale of buried secrets, suppressed passions and perpetuated lies. Fass gets the German pronunciations right, which is a relief — and not something you can always count on in audiobook narration. He also manages to avoid making the female characters sound like saps or drag queens, another quality I appreciate in a male reader. Overall, Fass enhances Neuhaus’s storytelling, helping to bring the contemporary German setting and characters alive for the listener. Snow White Must Die is an absorbing crime thriller — well written and skillfully read — and recommended listening for all Anglophone readers ready to broaden their geographic horizons in the genre.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.