Book Review: Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

Snow White Must Die (translated by Steven T Murray) is the fourth book in the Kirchhoff and Bodenstein series by Nele Neuhaus.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A complex yet gripping mystery thriller, full of plot twists and turns.  I couldn’t put it down. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a wet November day, Detectives Pia Kirchoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to the scene of a mysterious accident. A woman has fallen from a bridge onto the motorway below. It seems that she may have been pushed. The investigation leads them to a small town near Frankfurt, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls, Laura and Stefanie (also known as Snow White), vanished without trace from this same village. In a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence, Stefanie’s boyfriend, handsome and talented, Tobias Sartorius, was sentenced to ten years in prison. He has now returned to his home in an attempt to clear his name. Rita Cramer is his mother.

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. But when another young girl goes missing, the events of the past repeat themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a dramatic race against time, because for the villagers, there is soon no doubt as to the identity of the perpetrator. And this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

Favourite Quote

Like poisonous lava these words erupted from the depths of him; finally all the bottled disappointment came pouring out.

Review

I didn’t realise until I finished the book that this is the fourth book in the series that stars Kirchhoff and Bodenstein.  However, the book works very well as a standalone. I don’t believe I missed out on anything of significance by not starting the series at the beginning.

Every character we come across in this story has a tale to tell.  It’s not only the main characters that have the depth of a backstory while everyone else is simply there to move the story along, but, just like in real life, all these personalities, histories and choices weave together to create a fabric of community.  And somewhere, in amongst all this, are secrets and truth.

Kirchhoff and Bodenstein are both very interesting, modern characters.  Kirchhoff keeps so many animals that she almost lives on a farm, so before her day of investigating crime begins, she’s already been up for hours looking after the animals.  As for Bodenstein, his family are land and castle-rich but money poor.  Their personal lives are brought with them wherever they go, and this helps them to appear very realistic.  What is going on at home isn’t only important when the chapter says they’ve left work behind, so it’s all right for you to flesh out your character.   Most people are not like that; and believable characters are not like that either.

There are a lot of characters in this story and it was a little difficult to keep up with who’s who, but that’s my only real problem with the book.  I found the story to be gripping and I resented having to put it down when real life said I had others things to do apart from read.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next, what the next plot twist would uncover, if the truth would come out before it was too late…

This is my first foray into German crime fiction and I really enjoyed it.  I definitely plan to read more of these books.  If you enjoy Scandi-Noir, or any other sort of European crime-drama, I recommend Snow White Must Die to you.

Rating

 

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Short Story Review: The Adventure of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches is the twelfth and final short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

When a young governess, unemployed and desperate for a position, accepts a job with a couple living in a remote country home, her positive first impressions of the man and his family begin to change. With a mixture of fear and uncertainty, she asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the increasingly disturbing events that have begun to unfold around her.

Favourite Quote 

I couldn’t chose between these two:

“Crime is common.  Logic is rare.  Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

*

“Data! Data!  Data!” he cried impatiently.  “I can’t make bricks without clay.”

Review

This was one of the more exciting stories in the collection, with a bit more action and drama in it than some of the previous stories.  Violet Hunter, the governess, is an interesting character: strong and sensible, which coupled with the mystery at The Copper Beeches made for a very enjoyable read.  There is quite a lot going on in this little story, ensuring that the pace is fast and the storyline engaging.

This is one of my favourites from The Adventures, which I think is due to the very Victorian Gothic feel to the story…Highly recommended!

Rating

 

 

Book Review: The Sanctuary Seeker by Bernard Knight

The Sanctuary Seeker is the first book in the Crowner John Mysteries by Bernard Knight.

Summary (from Goodreads)

November, 1194 AD. Appointed by Richard the Lionheart as the first coroner for the county of Devon, Sir John de Wolfe, recently returned from the Crusades, rides out to the lonely moorland village of Widecombe to hold an inquest on an unidentified body.

But on his return to Exeter, the new coroner is incensed to find that his own brother-in-law, Sheriff Richard de Revelle, is intent on thwarting the murder investigation, particularly when it emerges that the dead man is a Crusader, and a member of one of Devon’s finest and most honourable families…

Favourite Quote

It was now more than three hours since they had left Exeter and the ceaseless downpour along the eastern edge of Dartmoor was enough to rot a man’s soul.

Review

The first time I came across Crowner John it wasn’t in one of the Crowner John Mysteries but in The Tainted Relic by The Medieval Murderers, of which Bernard Knight is one.  I so thoroughly enjoyed the Crowner John story (in that and subsequent volumes) that I knew I had to give this mystery series a try.

My first impression of the book came from its cover, and I loved it.  I also liked the chapter subheadings, which always began with, “In which Crowner John…” does something or other.

I really enjoyed the story too.  The characters are diverse and have their own histories which nicely come through as the tale unfolds, adding richness and depth.  Crowner John is an interesting character with an interesting task to tackle which the author presented in an engaging way.  It would have been very easy to bog down the story with great swathes of historical detail, but that isn’t a problem here.

There is an authentic feel to the story, not solely because of the level of historical accuracy but also because the characters feel quite true to the time period.  The mystery is a good one and the story moves at a good if not fast pace.

The glossary in the front of the book was very handy and very informative.  In fact, I learnt a great deal from reading it, and although I know a fair amount about the period (I like to consider myself a bit of a history buff) some of the in-depth information I had never come across before whilst other snippets built upon what I already knew.

The Sanctuary Seeker was a great historical mystery, and an enticing first book in a series.  As such, I am looking forward to reading book two, The Poisoned Chalice.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce

Last Tango in Aberystwyth is the second book in the Aberystwyth Noir series by Malcolm Pryce.

Summary (from back of book)

To the girls who come to make it big in the ‘What the Butler Saw’ movie industry, Aberystwyth is the town of broken dreams.  To Dean Morgan who teaches at the Faculty of Undertaking, it is just a place to get course materials.  But both worlds collide when the Dean checks into the notorious bed and breakfast ghetto – a dark labyrinth of Druid speakeasies and toffee-apple dens – and receives a suitcase intended for a ruthless Druid assassin.  Suddenly he is running for his life, his heart hopelessly in thrall to a porn star known as Judy Juice.  Once again, Louie Knight, the town’s only private eye, steps into the moral netherworld to make sense of it all.  He knows that in order to find the Dean, he has to discover what was in the Druid’s case.  It turns out to be something so evil it makes even the hard-boiled gumshoe gasp…

Favourite Quote

It was so hard to pick just the one…

The enamel hot dog sign squeaking in the wind, the doors banging and the newspaper gusting across the cheap concrete crazy paving lent a strange unsettling air to the place.

Review

I love this series.  It’s different, very quirky and like nothing else I have read.  If I had to sum up the series in one sentence…”A fast-paced, dark humoured, surreal hard-boiled detective series that is wonderfully set in an alternative Aberystwyth.”

The surrealism comes from taking everything that makes a classic hard-boiled detective story, giving them a Welsh twist before placing it in the quiet seaside university town of Aberystwyth.  And it works so well.  I struggle to put these books down once I start reading them.

As for this instalment in the series, it was as good, if not better than book one, Aberystwyth Mon Amor (which I reviewed here back in 2015).  Again there is plenty of witty dialogue, plot twists and comedy, but the author is also capable of writing some quite heartfelt passages too, which brings balance to the story.

Many of the characters have returned for book two (Aberystwyth is a small town).  Some favourites include Calamity, Louie’s wheeler-dealing teenage partner and Sospan the ice cream seller (who is equated with the ready-to-listen barman in the usual hard boiled detective stories).  But there are plenty of new characters too, keeping the plot fresh and interesting.

All-in-all, a truly imaginative series that I’m enjoying re-reading so much.

Rating 

Short Story Review: The Adventure of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet is the eleventh story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

A strange looking man appears at Baker Street in a state, in desperate need of the help of Sherlock Holmes.  His name is Alexander Holder,and he’s a banker.  The day before he had received a visit from “one of the highest, noble names in England.”  The noble wanted an advance of £50,000 for the duration of a week.  The security he puts up for such a large sum is the Beryl Coronet, one of the greatest treasures in the empire.

Holder decides he cannot leave such a valuable item in the office so takes it home, but some time in the night, the house is burgled, the Coronet goes missing and suspicion falls squarely on Holder’s son.

Favourite Quote

It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Review

I found this short story to be interesting and enjoyable.  Holmes takes the information that he is given and, coupled, with facts that he accumulates himself – such as the study of footprints in the snow – proves that not only is the obvious suspect not the guilty party but finds who is really behind the crime (in much the same way as he does in The Boscombe Valley Mystery).

What I’ve noticed that I like about these Sherlock Holmes stories is that just because Holmes can uncover the truth it doesn’t always have to have a neat and tidy ending where the crime / mystery is solved and punishment is duly meted out.  Villains can still escape, and that makes these stories a lot more like real-life.

Rating

 

Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor is the tenth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Lord Robert St. Simon seeks Sherlock Holmes’ help in the disappearance of his wife, Hatty Doran, on their wedding day.  It is after the wedding, at the reception, when she goes missing.  Just prior to the wedding breakfast, a disturbance is caused by a woman who says she has a claim upon Lord St. Simon.  The matter appears to be dealt with, but the bride leaves early and retires to her room.  And yet, she is almost immediately seen leaving the house, after which no-one sees her again.

What has happened to her?  Where has she gone?  And most importantly, why did she leave in the first place?

Favourite Quote

Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters.

Review

An interesting, if not the most memorable story in the collection.  The story centres around a fairly common practice of the time: English noble strapped for cash marries wealthy American in search of title.  Of course, this isn’t a love match, but neither does anyone expect the bride to disappear right after the ceremony.

One of the entertaining highlights of the story is the verbal sparring between Lestrade and Holmes.  On the one hand the Scotland Yard detective’s assumption sounds reasonable, even logical, but Sherlock is quick to point out the error of his ways.

There are enough clues littered throughout the story for the reader to figure this mystery out (which I did) before the answer is revealed, which is half the fun.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Adventures of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Engineer’s Thumb is the ninth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary

An injured man finds his way to Dr Watson’s surgery.  His thumb has been cut off.  Dr Watson, as he is treating him, asks how the rather strange injury came about.  When the man, Mr Hatherley, replies, he suggests they go and speak to Sherlock Holmes.  They soon learn that Mr Hatherley was engaged by a strange man to go and fix a hydraulic stamping machine somewhere in the middle of the English countryside.  He is to be paid well for his efforts, but things are not quite right.  Why is the commission top secret?  And why does a woman try to persuade him to leave as soon as he arrives?  Sherlock Holmes after hearing the bizarre story, naturally takes the case to find out these answers and more.

Favourite Quote

Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece.

Review

Another riveting Sherlock Holmes mystery.  This is another one that I couldn’t quite crack, though there are plenty of clues along the way.

There is a lot more drama in this story that the other ones I have so far read, in my opinion.  And reading of the close call Mr Hatherley has whilst he is at the isolated house raises the tension a lot.  It’s also a little more gory than the other short stories thanks to the passage where Dr Watson is treating the damaged hand of Mr Hatherley.

A great story, and a interesting read.

Rating