“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, Marianne. Also murdered was the Danners’ new maidservant, Marie, who was regarded as slightly simple. Despite the brutal nature of the killings and the small village where it has taken place, the police have no leads. Officially the crime is unsolved. And then a former resident returns home…The Murder Farm is an unconventional detective story. The author interweaves testament from the villagers, an oblique view of the murderer, occasional third-person narrative pieces and passages of pious devotion. The narrator leaves the village unaware of the truth, only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.”
Yay! I’ve managed to read one of my own books for the first time in a while. Not only is it one of my books, it’s one my husband gave me (if you missed my ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ post and don’t know what I’m on about, then please click here).
I have a penchant for dark reads. I also love translated crime, particularly German and Japanese novels (well…everyone else loves Nordic noir, don’t they!). So this book, originally published in and set in Germany, was an absolute joy to read. First off, I should mention that this is a short read. I’m not a fast reader but this took only a couple of hours from start to finish. The themes of the book (aside from the grisly Truman Capote-esque, ‘based on a true’ story murder) are quite hard-hitting and distressing. I can’t say what they are though as that would be giving too much away.
The Murder Farm is set in post-war Germany in a small farm based community where outsiders are condemned before they set foot in the village. But that doesn’t stop the locals having a say about their own. Particularly when it comes to the Danner family, who have a habit of keeping themselves pretty much to themselves. Everyone knows what happens at the Danner farm. They employ ‘tramps’ and ‘ne’er do wells’ to work the land. Not to mention the……other thing. When the entire household are found slaughtered, everyone has an opinion and they’re more than willing to share it….
I loved the slow build of this book. It’s presented beautifully with a statement from one of the locals, and then immediately followed by what actually happened. I loved seeing the difference in what was perceived and what was real. It’s a dark, edgy story which is done to perfection with heaps of lovely small town paranoia. At the end of the novel you and you alone discover whodunit. There is no high action arresting of the culprit, no hauling over the coals. Just a return to normal small town life; one with a murderer in their midst.
Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely. Beautifully eerie, wonderfully dark and completely compelling. Hubby did good in choosing this one for me, I think we were a perfect match (that’s me and the book by the way!)
Four and a half stars out of five.
The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel was published in the UK by Riverrun Books on 8th January 2009 and is available in hardcover, paperback and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Bookshop.org/shop/damppebbles |
Andrea Maria Schenkel, born in 1962, lives in Regensburg. 2006 saw her debut The Murder Farm cause a sensation. The novel was awarded the Martin Beck Award for the best international crime scene in 2007 with the German Crime Prize, the Friedrich Glauser Prize and the Corine, 2008. The book sold over a million times, was translated into twenty languages and filmed for cinema. For her second book Kalteis (2007) she received for the second consecutive time the German Thriller Prize. Recently published Finsterau (2012) and Deceiver (2013).
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