Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

snow whiteSnow White Must Die starts out convoluted, but if you plow through the first thirty or so pages and half a dozen storylines, it becomes an addiction.

Thirty year old Tobias Sartorius has just finished a ten-year jail sentence for the murders of two teenage girls in 1997, of which he has no direct memory – the clincher was the circumstantial evidence pointing toward his hand in the crime.  As such, he returns to his hometown with much trepidation.  His family’s farm and business is in ruins, his mother has separated from the family, and nearly everyone in the town views him with scorn, except his father, his long-standing friend Nadie, and Amelie, a free-spirited new girl in town, who has gotten some derision of her own.

Amelie takes an interest in the previous murders and does some private research of her own, until she disappears late one night after her shift at the local restaurant.  People are quick to blame Tobias for this, considering his past, and the very similar circumstances between the previous crimes and Amelie’s disappearance.

Taking on the case are Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein, detectives who have more than this on their hands.  They are also dealing with a human skeleton that turns out to belong to one of the girls in the earlier crime.  Personal problems play a part as well – Oliver suspects his wife of cheating, and Pia has the threat of her hard-won house being demolished by the Frankfurt city authorities.

As a subplot, Tobias’ estranged mother is pushed into heavy traffic from an elevated walkway; the perpetrator is a mystery, but this quickly changes. More dirt surfaces, and the bucolic village of Altenhain is not what it seems to be.

Apparently the author is well-known in her native Germany; Snow White Must Die is our first stateside taste of her fiction.  Initially, I got confused with all the different plotlines, but the story quickly ratchets up and is hard to put down, and there is intrigue all the way to the end.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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