The Atlantic ocean seems to have gotten a little smaller since the success of Larsson's Dragon Tattoo series. Foreign modern crime thrillers have gain..Show More »ed momentum, the translations giving us access to authors like Nesbo, Vargas, Lemaitre, Indridason, Mankell, et al. When Nele Neuhaus' Snow White Must Die appeared in book stores I had high hopes, largely based on high praise and a catchy title (I'm not chic enough to claim, *I simply adore European novels*) . . . turned out to be more a tumble to the ground than an all out splatt. Regrettably, not enough of a nose-dive to keep me from reaching out again to this German author.
This is gritty, brutal, and for the hard-gutted. (Sounds fun, no?) Subject matter aside (I dealt with much worse cases of abuse in my profession, and am sadly too familiar with the subject), the book was tough for me to get through because of a disconnect that went beyond a language barrier. Authors that have previously tackled such heinous topics successfully have wisely layered a foundation for contained depravity as the story evolves, a kind of etiology that establishes a psychological contract between the author and reader. I now understand the importance of that structure, that 'leash to incredulity' and shock -- without that understanding, this kind of crime, especially dealing with children, lacks the human dimension and becomes perverse sensationalism. The best authors in this genre are able to make atrocities as palatable as possible because of talent/great writing. Neuhaus delivers a raw story that moves along at a good clip, but she lacks the ability to make it palatable.
Fans of connect-the-dots police procedurals (German style CSI: Special Victims Unit) -- a headline grabbing shock-crime, the interaction between the detectives as they work through the mystery, the big blow-out ending -- should be entertained and won't regret the purchase. [Before my review turns you away from this choice, you might want to look over member's positive reviews on Snow White Must Die.] For my tastes, based on this book and SWMD, Nelehaus is certainly twisted, but dwells too much in the realm of preconceptions, clichés and debauched cabals instead of being twistedly original and absorbing. There is no explosive upset to the *people aren't always whom they seem* plotting; the characters are likeable enough, but as compelling as Zweiback toast; and the big explosive secrets more a pop than a bang -- all reasons I subtract stars. Perhaps something is lost in the translation. It was zippity, but no doo-dah, but that's another tale. As far as Neuhaus' grim versions of fairy tales to come...I'll live happily ever after without another.