Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review: The Murder Farm by Andrea Marie Schenkel

The Murder Farm
by Andrea Maria Schenkel
Publisher: Quercus
Published: June 3, 2014

Amazon Synopsis:

The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder Farm, “With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel.” 
The first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The Murder Farm and Ice Cold.
The Murder Farm begins with a shock: 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 little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie. 
An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

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My Thoughts:

Originally released in 2006 in German, under the title of Tannod, The Murder Farm is a fairly short read, approximately 200 pages and the brutal murders they are talking about take place in a remote village in Germany shortly after the war. The characters in the story are reminiscing about the event years later after the actual event.

This novel is written from the perspective of many of the different residents of the village of Tannod, as though they are being interviewed about the family that was murdered. A portion of the story was also told by the narrator. The author does an excellent job of speaking in the different voices of the characters. The reader really feels as though they are listening to an old forgetful woman or a young child or a middle aged man.

The portions of the story told by the characters in the story were written as though the characters were answering questions from a curious visitor or interviewer. At times they appeared to repeat the question presented to them (we never heard these original questions because as the reader, we were in the role of the questioner. It was implied that the question had been asked and was being repeated before being answered,)

There are several conclusions one could come to about a number of situations involving several of the Danners clan. Various members of the community have their own ideas of what happened regarding these events and whether or not they have any bearing on the murders that took place. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not any of them are correct or if there is another solution. Further speculation by this reviewer on possibilities will result in spoilers.

I found the method of storytelling in The Murder Farm to be unique to a novel. I found it lessened the suspense-fulness of the story for me which made the book less scary (and that's okay if the scariness of suspense novels bothers you). While we do discover who the perpetrator of the heinous crime is, whether or not this criminal is brought to justice by the authorities is left to your imagination.

I enjoyed this ingenious method of conveying this murder mystery. I gave The Murder Farm 3 stars out of 5.

Thank you to the publishers who provided a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

Andrea Maria Schenkel, born 1962, lives in Regensburg. In 2006 she released her debut  Tannöd, which created a sensation. The novel was awarded the 2007 German Crime Prize, the Friedrich Glauser Prize and the Corine, 2008 with the Martin Beck Award for the best international crime novel. The book has sold over a million copies, been translated into twenty languages ​​and has been filmed for the movies.

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