Thursday 13 February 2014

A Wolf in Hindelheim
This is a deeply claustrophobic novel, set wonderfully in a bleak and backward 1920s rural Germany that feels far more as though it belongs to a medieval rather than twentieth century world. Hindelheim is a typical remote village, where outsiders are viewed with suspicion and where unhappy marriages and petty squabbles abound. Set against this backdrop of small minded rivalries a baby disappears. Suspicions rest upon the Jewish shopkeeper, a young man who moves through life with easy grace, and who has never made any real attempts to fit into his community. Constable Theodore Hildebrandt, as usual refuses to accept the pervading view of the situation, at least not without any evidence. His suspicions about what actually happened at the house of Dr Koenig are clouded by his feelings towards the Dr's young wife. This is a taut and well written novel that pulls together threads related to the dangers of rural small-mindedness, an underlying anti-Semitism, the rise of the 'science' of eugenics, and the growth of proto-Nazi groups within Weimar Germany. The concluding chapter leaves us in little doubt about the potential fate that awaits one central character while leaving the fate of the other characters to the reader's imaginations. The author conjures up the village and it's villagers with some finely drawn portraits of characters who breathe life into the story, all while they are spreading their poison. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, or Robert Dinsdale's Gingerbread they all contain the same wonderful thread of threat and barely contained violence bubbling away just under the veneer of petty respectability found in small, backward looking communities.

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