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New German Crime Novels
On Cirrostratus Clouds and Fishers of Men

The last few months have seen very different German crime novels published, all well worth reading. Some of their topics: dead people who aren’t dead, a showdown on the Lorelei, brains uploaded into clone bodies and subtle horror in a mother-daughter relationship.

By Holger Moos

Kerkerkind © Knaur For some people, crime novels are all they can read in bed at night, suspense being the only thing that will keep them awake. Looking for new recommendations? This selection is guaranteed to increase your sleep deficit.

Headless in the Wannsee forest

Katja Bohnet’s thriller Kerkerkind (Dungeon Child) is a rather bloody story about two police inspectors who are hunting a serial killer. First, the burnt corpse of a pregnant woman is found in the Wannsee forest, followed by a number of beheaded male corpses. And one of the inspectors is heading into danger himself. Elmar Krekeler concludes in the Welt newspaper: “It takes a while to get your bearings, until you’re no longer surprised by the matryoshka-like way you get from one story to the one that lies beneath, no longer baffled by the increasing suspicion just how closely everything is interconnected.”

Not dead in Munich

A man wakes up in a coffin. He manages to free himself but can’t remember anything. Max Bronski sends his protagonist “Oskar” on a journey of self-discovery, first to the English Garden in Munich dressed in nothing but boxer shorts, and then further afield. Elmar Krekeler has reviewed this crime novel in the Welt newspaper as well and believes Bronski’s latest book delivers an answer to the question of why we read crime novels: “Because there is nothing crazier than literature that digs under or flies over genre borders to that place where literature is as crazy as life can be. Oskar is one of those novels.”

Love crime

Film maker and Grimme award winner Volker Heise has written his first novel. In Außer Kontrolle (Out of Control), he unfurls a cityscape in which everything escalates over the course of one night. “Berlin. The city as will, imagination and collapse. Everything has to end well for the boy and the girl. Everyone collapses: the star chef, his fish, the old and the young policeman, the adulterer, the emergency doctor. Ruggedly orchestrated, composed in minor key: Heise’s sound of a metropolis on a late summer night”, as the jury of the Krimibestenliste (a monthly list of the best German crime novels) describes it (4th place in February 2018).

German sci-fi

Tom Hillenbrand’s sci-fi crime novel Hologrammatica fuses the narrative of a crime novel with questions of artificial intelligence and digitalisation. As the Krimibestenliste jury states: “2088. Horror for identity fetishists. The overheated Earth has been holographically beautified, people upload their brains into clone bodies. Disappeared: top programmer Juliette, along with her know-how. Quaestor Singh is looking for her. Great ideas, logically structured, the future through the eyes of a detective, philosophy light“ (4th place on the Krimibestenliste April 2018).

That tingling sensation on the back of your neck

Regina Nössler’s thriller Schleierwolken (Cirrostratus Clouds) tells the story of a mid-forties woman and dutiful daughter who lives in Berlin. She regularly visits her demanding mother in Wattenscheid and increasingly feels like someone is following her. “Rarely has subtle horror been so softly and skilfully told. There is nothing shrill, nothing sensational, but much that is cruel, mean and decidedly nasty,” Thomas Wörtche states on culturmag.de. The book has catapulted the relatively unknown author onto the Krimibestenliste: “Berlin, Wattenscheid. Proofreader Elisabeth feels like someone is following her. Her lonely mother complains about everything, someone follows her, she falls in front of a bus. Indignities all around. Bad conscience: Has she done the right thing? Once, when she was young. The past returns. Subtle: the horror of everyday life” (8th place on the Krimibestenliste February 2018).

Inspector Marthaler’s sixth case

In Jan Segher’s crime novel Menschenfischer (Fishers of Men), Inspector Marthaler investigates an cruel, unsolved murder case from 1998 that leads him first to Southern France and then onto the trail of a gang of human traffickers. Dietmar Jacobsen has reviewed the novel for literaturkritik.de: “Like all novels in this series, Fishers of Men manages the feat of dovetailing initially disparate facts more and more tightly. Until a number of seemingly unconnected cases become one whose individual aspects neatly explain each other.” Brigitte Grahl from krimi-couch.de is a fan as well: “A gripping case with unforeseeable twists and a logical solution, and a taut storyline with dynamic narrative pace. Even so, ‘Fishers of Men’ frequently has room for atmosphere and emotion, even poetry. Seghers just keeps getting better!”

Losers, Ordinary People, Criminals

Roland Spranger’s crime novel Tiefenscharf (Depth of Focus) tells the story of a video journalist with job issues who hears about a drug deal and senses a scoop. Kolja Mensing calls the “book [...] an uncompromising crime novel from a desolate regional area” (deutschlandfunkkultur.de), and the Krimibestenliste jury has the following to say: “Franconian-Czech border. Family man Sascha is a one-man TV crew in trouble. His investigation never gets very far, but he manages to pick a fight with a group of neo-Nazi bohemians who deal crystal and operate across borders. Sobering stuff for political optimists” (7th place on the Krimibestenliste April 2018).
 
Cherry Picker

Bohnet, Katja: Kerkerkind
München: Knaur, 2018. 331 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-426-52093-2
 
Bronski, Max: Oskar
München: Droemer, 2017. 298 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-426-30610-9
 
Heise, Volker: Außer Kontrolle
Berlin: Rowohlt Berlin, 2017. 240 pages. 
ISBN: 978-3-644-10043-5
 
Hillenbrand, Tom: Hologrammatica
Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2018. 557 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-462-05149-0
 
Nössler, Regina: Schleierwolken
Tübingen: konkursbuch, 2017. 314 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-88769-563-7
 
Seghers, Jan: Menschenfischer
Reinbek: Kindler, 2017. 428 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-463-40670-1
 
Spranger, Roland: Tiefenscharf
Hamburg: Polar, 2018. 286 pages.
ISBN: 978-3-945133-59-0

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