The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator)

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The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator)

Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's totally original, engrossing and a joy to read. If you've despaired of finding something new and fresh in the crime genre then you should read this book. Highly recommended
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1780877730

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It was at the end of the war that Afra Zauner returned to her parents' cottage in Finsterau. She'd lost her job as a waitress and it was some time before she realised that she was pregnant. When Albert was born her father turned against her and the boy and there was little sympathy for her in the village - but they didn't expect that Afra would be murdered. The obvious suspect was Johann Zauner. It was no secret that there had been constant arguments between him and his daughter and he had some injuries which he couldn't entirely explain. When a policeman 'obtained' a confession it seemed that this was an open-and-shut case.

Eighteen years later a man who had rather too much to drink in a bar showed his feelings about the case. He knew who had murdered Afra and her boy - and he was still walking free. In roundabout ways the case was reopened.

I've read a lot of crime fiction: sometimes I think I've read too much when I realise that so little is new or even fresh - until I read something like The Dark Meadow (that's the translation of 'Finsterau') and suddenly the possibilities seem endless. Andrea Maria Schenkel has produced something quite original, totally engrossing and a joy to read. You see, there is no detective to investigate the crime, no one to tell us the story. We have the reminiscences of various people who were peripherally involved and the stories of those directly affected are teased out until we know the full story.

It's a novella but I've read many a thick book with less of a story. The writing is sublime, the translation brilliant. The characters come alive off the page - even the murder victim has a distinct personality. You'll feel empathy for her but wonder if you have liked her in real life. Schenkel captures the attitudes of the time - to illegitimacy and single parenthood - the lack of understanding of mental illness and the attitude to foreigners (Albert's father was French) perfectly. And it's all set in the Bavarian countryside.

It's a book to buy and keep. In going back to check details for this review I found myself reading whole chapters and muttering Oh, so that's why/how... You'll read it once for enjoyment and the story - but the next time you'll see how it was done. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another fresh approach within the genre we can recommend The Murder of Harriet Krohn by Karin Fossum. Another short book which more than merited a second reading is The Lighthouse by Alison Moore.

Buy The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator) at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg The Dark Meadow by Andrea Maria Schenkel and Anthea Bell (translator) is in the Top Ten Crime Novels of 2014.

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