Andrea Maria Schenkel: Bunker (2009)
It had been a normal day at work. Monika was locking up, ready to head home, when the man arrived. She didn’t see his fist until it was far too late. Bundled into a car, tied up and taken in darkness to an old mill in the thick of a forest, she has been flung into a bunker. It is only now, as time passes and she sees her attacker in the light, that she notices the startling resemblance to someone from her very dark and buried past. Someone she never wanted to see again.
Andrea Maria Schenkel entered the literary crime scene with a big bang when her first novel The Murder Farm – Tannöd was published in Germany. Based on a true story it described a crime which wiped out a whole family. While there were many glowing reviews there were also a lot who predicted she would be a one hit wonder. Fact is, she has written three more novels, two very different ones, Ice Cold - Kalteis and Bunker - Bunker, and a fourth one which hasn’t been translated yet – Finsterau -, which is written in the vein of Tannöd, but none has had the success of the first.
Bunker is a very unusual crime novel. It takes a long time to figure out what is going on as the POV occasionally changes two to three times per page. If the different points of view were not printed in different type, it would be nearly impossible to know who is telling the story. If you are an impatient person you might give up after a few pages. I decided to read until the end and must say, I don’t regret it. Instead of passively reading about the confusion of the victim, we share this confusion which was an interesting experience.
Monika is abducted from her work place, tied up, thrown into a car and driven to a mill in a dark forest. A bunker belongs to the mill and she is held captive there. The man hits and mishandles her but what he really wants is not clear.
After some time she feels she knows him. It seems to be someone she never wanted to see again and who was tied to the disappearance of her brother when she was still a teenager.
The relationship between Monika and her attacker changes constantly. While he hits her one moment, he takes care of her the next. At one point she has a chance to escape but she stays.
At the end of the book a murder has been committed, a person has been severely injured and another one escapes. That’s all I’m telling you.
I liked this puzzle approach, I found it interesting to only ever get a few snippets of information which only formed a whole after I had finished the book. The main story line ends in a satisfying way but there is a lot of back story which is never really sorted out. There are too many open questions at the end. I don’t aways mind being left with unanswered questions if I think, the author withheld answers despite the fact that he/she had them. When I feel it was an easy way out for the author, I’m not impressed. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that this is what happened here.
Bunker is a quick read, offers an interesting narrative technique but I’m still not sure whether it is not rather a gimmick than a great book.