Introducing Nele Neuhaus – German Crime

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Nele Neuhaus has just been published for the first time in English (Snow White Must Die) and I thought that was a good opportunity to see for myself what this highly acclaimed German crime writer has to offer. Neuhaus entered the German crime scene with her self-published  novels. They were so successful that a big German editor bought them and re-edited and re-published the first ones and now her later novels too. Her very first book was a standalone called Unter Haien (Among Sharks), the second was the first in a series. What has currently been published in English is the fourth volume in the series with Chief Inspector Oliver Bodenstein and his colleague Inspector Pia Kirchhoff.

I like to start series with the first book and since I read German, I bought it to find out what the fuss was about. There is a new crime writing star every few years in Germany, some like Charlotte Link have been popular for years, others, like Neuhaus are new. At the moment, whenever Neuhaus publishes a book, it will be a huge success with hundreds and hundreds of amazon reviews.

Now on to the book. In German it’s called Eine unbeliebte Frau – An unlikable woman. A young extremely beautiful woman is murdered and the inspectors soon find out that she had a lot of enemies. It’s a classic whodunnit. As I said, I read the first in the series and it became quickly obvious why the English editor went for no. 4. I enjoyed it, I thought it was very gripping but not in a manipulative, cliffhanger-at-the-end-of-every-chapter kind of way. Rather in a laid back way. I liked that. What didn’t work so well was the way the two inspectors were introduced. It seems this gets better from book to book. They are a bit pale in this one. Bodenstein less than Kirchhoff but still, they don’t feel like characters in a series yet but rather like inspectors in a standalone police procedural.

The story as such is gripping. There are at least 6 or 7 suspects and it takes almost the whole book to make clear what happened. I liked that.  I also liked what little we get to know about Kirchoff and Bodenstein, despite the fact that they are a bit pale, not very charismatic.

The setting of the books is the Taunus region, near Frankfurt. Frankfurt is one of the biggest German cities and also one with a high crime rate. There are quite a few crime series and novels set in this town, the best known are certainly the Kayankaya novels by Jakob Arjouni who just died a few weeks ago. Choosing the Taunus region, and not the big city was a deliberate choice. It allows much slower stories and to integrate one of the core themes of the series, the wish of the two main characters to start a new life which should be less stressful and closer to nature.

While this may not have been the most exciting crime novel I’ve ever read, nor is it literary – the writing gets the job done, it’s not refined -, it’s still a solid police procedural. It is well constructed and with a nice pace. I thought it was a promising start to the series which introduces good-natured characters, and I know I’ll read another one sooner or later. For English readers the good news is that it seems you can start with no. 4 and you will not miss out too much. No. 6 in the series has just been published in Germany. If you like your crime gripping but not too fast-paced, this is a good choice.

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35 thoughts on “Introducing Nele Neuhaus – German Crime

  1. I love the English title of this book!

    I also like to start series from the beginning and starting in the middle would likely deter me from reading something.

    I do like the idea of a laid back mystery, however.

    • There are a few series where it would have been better to start later but I just like it, when I have the opportunity to start with the first.
      I was so glad for the pace. I’m tired of those hectic-frantic American thrillers.

  2. Thanks Caroline: this one has my attention. Series characters seem to become stronger as the books mount up (Bruen may be an exception as his Sgt Brant is extremely well drawn in A White Arrest).

    • On amazon people who started with a later book said that it was difficult to read the first and get a good feeling for the charcaters as there was not a lot of information. It really seems as if they were getting stronger. I’ll be curious to hear what you think of her.

  3. Nice review of an interesting new writer and book, Caroline. I haven’t read any German crime novels except for Zoran Drvenkar’s ‘Sorry’ and ‘Three Bags Full’ by Leonie Swann. So it is interesting for me to get to know a new German crime writer. It is interesting that one can read the fourth volume of the series as a standalone and won’t miss much. Thanks for introducing a new-to-me author.

    • There are a lot of strong German crime writers, they are not as literary as some of the Nordic crime I’ve read but the have something relaxed and very atmospheric. I have still not read Swann but she’s a big hit too.
      Neuhaus is a phenomenon. Not many self-published writers become such a success.

  4. Of course I’ve never heard of her, so thanks for sharing. It’s available in French. Blanche Neige doit mourir / La Flétrissure.
    Une vie au galop a l’air cucul la praline, si je regarde la couverture.

    Is this cosy crime?

    I think you’d enjoy Anne Perry, the series with Monk and Hester.

    • No, it’s not cozy at all. It has graphic elements but it’s not too fast paced and the charcaters are very conventional He’s a bit like Maigret.
      Quelle couverture? Celle du livre français?
      I’ll read an Anne Perry sooner or later. :)

  5. Thanks for introducing yet another writer to me, Caroline. I’m not fluent in German, but I lived in Germany for two years, so would enjoy a novel set there. I also appreciate the heads-up about the first books in the series, because it usually drives me insane to not read all, in order. :)

  6. Interesting that one can start with book 4. I usually like to start at the beginning, which is why I tend to shy away from series since some of them are a huge commitment. Good for the writer for starting off as a self-published writer. I wonder how much editing occurred when the publisher got a hold of it.

    • People on amazon commented that the editing in the selfp-piblished books wasn’t perfect and that it was much better now.
      I think she didn’t intend it to be a series at first which may explain why the characters stay to a large extent in the background. On th other hand, they just start to work together.
      I suppose there are a few series in which the detectives or inspectors are not that strong and you can read them however you want.

  7. I really appreciate crime reviews as there are SO many crime authors to choose from and I end up sticking with those I know out of uncertainty. I quite like the sound of this author, but I might wait until the book you liked best is translated. I’m sort of picky with crime, and do like to read the best ones. Thank you for the honest and clear review.

  8. This was already on my wishlist so now I really must read it. As it is only in hardcover here I might have to break my no library book rule (supposed to be reading from my own piles…) and get on the library list for it as I do like the sound of it. I also prefer to read from the first book on, but with translated mysteries it is almost impossible since they are always published out of order. I can see why–that they want to hook the reader with a really good book, but I like reading in an orderly fashion. :) I’m just happy, though, it’s been published here, too.

    • I could imagine you will like her and since the one that was published in English is said to be better, even more so. I think the couple of inspectors has a lot of potential, as they are too very different people. I’m looking forward to read your thoughts on her. I forgot about your libraray ban. Hmmm. One little exception?

  9. I really, really enjoyed this. An added bonus in that it is set in Hessen. I lived there for 8 years. Downside is that I am now feeling homesick …. Booked flights to Frankfurt day after I finished …..

    • My pleasure. I hope you will like it should you try it.
      If you like historical crime you might like Charlotte Link. One of her books has just been translated and parts of it are set during WWII. Jakob Arjouni is excellent if you like your crime rather hardboiled.

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