Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Murder Farm

by Andrea Maria Schenkel
Quercus (June 3 2014)
208 pages - 12.85 $

The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder Farm, “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 first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The Murder Farm and Ice Cold.

The Murder Farm begins with a shock: a whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch; his put-upon devoutly religious wife; and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie. 

An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

What's about that book?

This book is popular for the different way the author investigate the murder and, indeed, this is very different from the usual crime fiction. Here, no investigation, no police but a transcript of the villagers' testimony, who are more or less closed to the victims and more or less sorry for them. Between the testimonies, the story unfolds in  the point of view of different people. And between the testimonies and the course of history, sometimes lengthy prayers.

The strength of the author is to be able to convey the discomfort the old Danner family generates in the village, the unspoken turned into gossip and the murky atmosphere. Obviously, no one really appreciated this dysfunctional family and if people are horrified at the idea that a person could commit such a crime close to home, nobody really feel for the family, apart for the children.

Little warning because I know that these issues are not easy to read and put off some people, the book adresses the subjects of incest and rape. It's human darkness pushed to the maximum and the worst is that there are indeed families like that!

The downside of this story is that no character is brought out, so you can't have empathy for the Danner family or other characters. Without feeling invested in the story, I struggled to find the book gripping, stressful or really interesting. It was like reading a newspaper with a drama lived in a particularly surly village.

In a nutshell

A short novel, a well brought very dark and creepy atmosphere, the solving of the murder without investigation, all is well done but lacks depth. This is a 2.5 / 5 .

Warning: An e- galley of this title was provided to me by the publisher. No review has been promised and chronic above is an unbiased review of the novel.

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