By Andrea Maria Schenkel
(Translated from the German by Anthea Bell)
I received a free advanced copy of this book from netgalley.com in return for an honest review of the book.
THE MURDER FARM by Andrea Maria Schenkel was published in Germany in 2006 and has finally been translated and released in the U.S. This is not your usual murder mystery. The author has chosen an innovative, very clever way of revealing the details of a horrific crime set on a remote farm in Germany.
About the Story
There is no single narrator in this book. Instead, you read case notes, interview transcripts of those who knew the farm and its inhabitants. Gradually, you piece together the elements of the story, learning more and more about the victims of the crime–a crime only hinted at until very far into the story. The interview transcripts, each presenting a neighbor, friend, or relative’s own voice and perspective, slowly give you a complete picture of the farm and the family who lived there. Only at the very end do you see the final image of the killer. The reader gets to see snippets of the killer’s point of view throughout–snippets that are as intriguing as the rest of the story. What motivated these horrific actions? You may–or may not–have a hint early on about who did it. And you may be surprised by the wrongness of that guess. By the time the story ends, you’ll know not only who perpetrated these acts, but why. And how one of the victims brought all of this down on the others.
The Book Review
This book is fairly short, but it is dense with information. The author does a superb job of providing a solid psychological probe of the family, and the neighbors and friends (well…acquaintances since this family had no real friends). It is very much in the style of European psychological mysteries, told in a compelling, original way.
If you enjoy psychological probings of criminals and their victims, this is absolutely the book for you. In an odd way, it reminds me of Minette Walters’ superb mysteries, yet it is more original in its presentation. As the reader, you become the stolid detective, sifting through the varying accounts, trying to determine the truth of the matter.
The Bottom Line
American readers, used to blood and gore and overt violence, may not be satisfied with the psychological approach presented here. But if you love understanding why people behave as they do, and if you like mysteries, this is a fabulous read. I loved it, quite honestly.
With those caveats–no chase scenes, no shoot-em-ups, no explicit violence–this receives: