Friday 18 April 2014

Big Bad Wolf - Nele Neuhaus

First off a bit of a whinge is required here. I am quite the fan of translated fiction. Probably something like three quarters of everything I read started off in a language other than English. I am a big fan of the various publishers who go out of their way to bring great bits of writing to the English market. Companies like Pushkin, Arcadia and Gallic get my vote every time. I also love the brilliant range of crime writers that more mainstream publishers have brought to English audiences in the wake of the massive success of Larsson, Nesbo and Mankell etc. What does annoy me quite a bit is that especially with the larger publishers there is a tendency to ignore the original series order and publish these books in what feels like a completely random order. I appreciate that they do this because they are of the opinion that a certain one in the series will have the greatest appeal to a certain market and will help to launch the author to a new audience, but still it is irritating when you read a book that has the odd reference to earlier things, and then you discover that no this wasn't down to a slightly odd translation, but was in fact thanks to you being forced to read the books totally out of sequence. For some non-English authors we never actually get the who series at all. Neither the first, nor the last two of the Inspector Erlendur books have yet been translated into English at all. We get the series from book three, translated as Jar City, and never get to see how the character arcs start out; and as Erlendur is not the focus of the final two books these have not been translated either.
With Pierre Lemaitre and his wonderful books Alex and Irene, the English market was first given Alex, book two of the Verhoeven series; only for it to be followed up by Irene which was the first one. This led to the shocking ending of Irene being somewhat diluted as we had already read all about the consequences all the way through Alex! I was somewhat annoyed to discover that it was a similar tale with Nele Neuhaus and her brilliant, slightly fairytale inspired crime series. English readers jumped into this series with Snow White Must Die, an amazingly well done story that I absolutely loved, but still book four of her Bodenstein and Kirchhoff series. At the time of reading Snow White, I noticed a few bits were characters referred back to earlier cases, made comments that seemed to require some prior knowledge annoying but it still was a great read.
With Big Bad Wolf I was expecting book five of the series maybe, something that would logically follow on from book four. What we get is in fact the sixth book in the series. It is clear that a couple of years has passed since the Snow White case, events are mentioned giving us a time frame, but also several other cases are brought up which I'm guessing took place in either books 1-3 or in book 5. This really does get tiresome after a while, which is a shame because on the whole this is an excellent and very dark crime novel. It doesn't deserve little annoyances like this to get in the way of the story.
Big Bad Wolf has a huge number of twists and turns, but despite that the ultimate criminal does seem to come to light rather early on at least from the reader's point of view. I spent quite a good portion of the book mentally shouting at the various detectives about who the real culprit was here.  I don't know if I was just being particularly perceptive or if the identity is insanely obvious for everyone, either way despite 'getting it' long before the detectives did there were still enough shocks along the way to keep me very interested in this as a great read. The story is genuinely dark with some deeply messed up and quite hideous characters and some really shocking moments. The whole thing started to lose shape slightly towards the end, and my feeling is that Neuhaus had spent so much time and energy crafting the main story, that once the culprit was made plain she didn't quite know how to wind the story up to a neat conclusion. This had shades of Liz Coley's Pretty Girl Thirteen that I thought could have been explored a bit more, and I have to recommend that book to anyone who enjoys this. I also felt that the style and shape of the story had similarities with some of the Yrsa Sigurdardottir crime novels so I suggest her works as a good read. (Her books do seem to have been published in order so start with Last Rituals.)
Overall I did enjoy this very much as a nice dark crime thriller; I just hope that the lovely people at Macmillan decide to 'do the right thing' and publish the rest of this series so that one day I can read them in order without having to fall back on my slightly rusty German!

No comments:

Post a Comment