Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus is a tremendous new contemporary mystery series and huge international bestseller—with more than 3.5 million copies in print! On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.
On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?
In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.
An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.
After reading Stieg Larson’s Millennium trilogy, and also listening to it on audio book (which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end), I was eager to read another ‘import’ of the same genre regardless of the country or origin. I was intrigued to see if the aforementioned book was a rarity in that it translated well, or whether there was a new generation of foreign Authors whose works also responded with the same impact; I’m glad to be able to say that this book checked all the blocks.
It would be unfair to compare this novel with Larson’s work, as they are not alike in any way apart from the fact they are well worth picking up and reading. It wasn’t until I was mentally bemoaning the lack of character development in this book that I realised I had entered the world of the two main protagonists four books into their story, and so based on this I had to take them at face value. Again I was not disappointed; all the characters in this novel are tightly and expertly written, with all their European mannerisms and quirks translating wonderfully for the American reader. As I read about the characters, some of these mannerisms brought to mind our time living in Germany and actually made me miss it somewhat. The two main characters are very reminiscent of Lynley and Havers from the books by Elizabeth George, but a lot less gentile and polite, and it was this kind of familiarity that made me warm to them even more.
The complexity of the plot grows as the reader progresses through this mystery, but due to the skilful handling of the Author it does so without throwing too much information too quickly at the reader. Like a fly fisherman, this Author plays with the reader through hints and innuendos, but never reveals anything early than is necessary for the continuation of the storyline. Because of this, and even though it is number 4 in a series, this novel works exceptionally well as a standalone read; one that will have the reader promising themselves just ‘one more chapter’ well into the night.
I will definitely be reading more by this Author, and hope that my German skills are up to the task, if not I will just have to pray to the literary gods that they translate the other books in this series. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a gritty and often brutal police procedure and also those who enjoy and good mystery/thriller.