Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus is book four in the series, but the first I have read so far and it is a terrific thriller and mystery of small town secrets and murder. Translated from its original German, the novel has an incredibly pace and flow that is much faster than many of the European mysteries I have encountered previously.
Tobias Sartorius has just been released from prison. He served ten years for the deaths of two teenage girls, convicted strictly on circumstantial evidence. He returns home to the village where the crimes took place to find his father’s life in ruins and his mother gone. The villagers, once his friends and neighbors react angrily to his return but Tobias cannot leave his father alone to deal with the outcry of the townspeople.
Detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Von Bodenstein are sent to investigate a mysterious traffic accident. A woman fell off a pedestrian bridge into the traffic below causing a pile up. Prior to her falling, she is seen running from a man and fighting against him. The woman is Rita Cramer, the mother of Tobias Sartorius.
Kirchhoff and Von Bodenstein run into a wall of silence when they show photos of the man on the bridge before Rita Cramer fell into the traffic to the village. It is obvious that they know who the man is and are covering up for him. The Detectives realize that this attack is related to the missing girls of ten years before and the return of Rita Cramer’s son Tobias to the village. As they dig into the mystery they realize that it is possible that Tobias did not commit the crime he was sentenced to so many years before and that the village itself is aware that he may be innocent.
The actions in the village come to a head as another young girl goes missing. Is it the revenge of Tobias or is there a more sinister happening going on behind the silence of the village and its people.
Snow White Must Die is another in a growing list of European mysteries that seem to be eclipsing what is being produced here in the states. The setting and absolute attention to detail in character development are the foundations to a mystery crime novel that moves at a pace and clip that is reminiscent of a thriller. The private lives of the Detectives comes into play in their interaction with the suspects and witnesses and are just as much a part of the tale as the murders themselves. Von Bodenstein’s failing marriage and his wife’s attitude rock him and make it difficult for him to make clear headed observations to what is happening around him. Kirchhoff finds the ties to the cold case to what is happening in the village now and she finds herself moving against prevailing attitudes in her own police force against re-opening a case that they already feel is solved. Tobias is an interesting character, returning to the very town where he is viewed as a murderer of young girls. His parents once thriving business in in ruins and their position in the community destroyed by his conviction. He knows it would be better if he left but his crushed father keeps him there. He must fight against the town and continue to proclaim his innocence though he himself is no longer sure what truly happened all those years ago.
The mysteries and secrets of this small town village are as dark and horrific as any laid out before. The murder and rape of the two young girls, somehow brought about by their own jealousies and plotting are tragic. The reaction and reach for truth by the townspeople, any truth, is reminiscent of small town America where the rumors and gossip hold as much truth as actual facts.
Neuhaus is an established bestseller in her own country and is ready to make her mark her across the pond. Snow White Must Die is a terrific mystery with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing through it all. It doesn’t miss a beat and the translation is expertly done. It flows and ebbs without a lilt.
A terrific crime novel that will have you searching for the others in the series and hoping they have made it across the pond as well!