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Missing Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larrson: SPOILER

  • Jan 8, 2013
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In "Snow White Must Die," Nele Neuhaus writes a crime story/police procedural that because of a highly populated cast of characters living either in Berlin or the rural and insular village of Altenhain combined with the fact that they all sport difficult sounding names seems a prime candidate to vie for the "Who is Going to Fill the Shoes of Stieg Larsson?" category of gritty thrillers. Unfortunately Neuhaus's novel does not quite fit the bill--neither in terms of actual storyline nor in giving birth and christening a character as fundamentally likeable and ingeniously capable as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" - Lisbeth Salander that fans will follow into the depths of reading hell no matter how complicated or cumbersome the plotline becomes.

Neuhaus does not really even have a main character. She focuses on Detective Pia Kirchhoff and her backstory of dealing with her live-in boyfriend and their desire to move into a new dwelling. Then she switches to Pia's boss, Oliver von Bodenstein whose crumbling marriage cranks up the usual police all-nighters and caffeine levels to an unhealthy jitter fest that bombards the reader with so many alien sounding names that it is advisable to keep a notebook and pen at hand to keep track of this novel's either undistinguished or blatantly out-there who's who.

But then, why bother? If this is the beginning of a series, it won't be one that I will read again simply because as the storyline was not all that compelling, it did not compensate for the lack of an extremely intriguing character with a past, present or future that I want to explore. There is nothing psychologically intriguing about either of the police leads. In my book, Lisbeth Salander still remains the most unforgettable character starring in a crime novel series since Sherlock Holmes.

Neuhaus introduces her cop team as they investigate a traffic accident that eventually leads them to the village of Altenhain where a decade ago, a young man was convicted for the murders of two teenagers and sent to prison even though the bodies of the girls were never discovered. Now, after serving his sentence, Tobias Sartorius returns to his home to find his father in ruin and the town less than eager to welcome him back. Suspicions are aroused as events transpire that seem to replicate the events of the past. The town knows more than what was revealed to the police years before and these secrets are still worth keeping even if it means Sartorius will be framed again. Some of Neuhaus' moments do hold the reader's attention--the autistic character Thies and his ability to draw details rather than speak them works nicely within an otherwise convoluted plotline that includes so many people and their odd motivations that again that notebook and pen become a necessity for optimal understanding.

In addition to the murky character set and the lack of a main focus that reaches beyond the story of Tobias to compel the reader to look forward to the next installment, the ludicrous plot twists and turns seem to act as dei ex machina rather than the reasonable uncoverings of past events and motivations from characters with something sinister to hide. Reading such "out to left field" goings-on doesn't provide the requisite "ah-ha" moment of any successful thriller. Quite frankly, once the reader discovers that one of Tobias's confidants is manipulating him, the whole plot thread unravels with nothing more than a deep breath, a forewarning not to believe further publishing hype and a perusal of better reads from standby authors noted for their consistency.

Bottom line? Despite the blurbs printed on the back of book, "Snow White Must Die" is not the first installment in the next series of books to receive the critical acclaim of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Series Set: (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) (The Girl Who Played with Fire) (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) (Millennium Trilogy). Once the mystery of Tobias Sartorius reaches a resolution, the book's only character worth revisiting with any potential for future psychological nuance and future motivation (Tobias himself) is pretty much shelved as the lead in Book One's crime episode. The other characters that would appear to be slotted for series longevity: Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff just weren't interesting enough cause me to want to read another Nele Neuhaus selection. Recommended only for those who must read it, like cumbersome crime novels with ludicrous plot twists and mediocre characters with cumbersome names.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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More Snow White Must Die reviews
review by . November 27, 2012
This is an extremely well written and exciting book about two detectives in Germany who are called to the scene of what appears to be a possible murder attempt. Their investigation grows into a much more complicated thing, when there appears to be a connection to two murders of young girls ten years in the past, for which a young man was convicted and sent to prison, even though the bodies were never found. When the man returns to his home town at the conclusion of his sentence, it becomes obvious …
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Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #166
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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"...[an] emotional page turner, fueled by unexpected plot twists."--Kirkus Reviews
"German author Neuhaus makes her U.S. debut with this impressive multidimensional police procedural, which has already been published in 15 countries with more than three million copies in print. Convicted on circumstantial evidence of murdering two vanished 17-year-old girls, 30-year-old Tobias Sartorius returns home to Altenhain, a village near Frankfurt, after serving his 10-year sentence, to find his parents divorced and their lives as hopeless as his has become. The townspeople maintain a mafia-like code of silence to protect terrible betrayals past and present, even as the discovery of the skeletal remains of one of the missing girls leads Det. Insp. Pia Kirchhoff and Det. Sgt. Oliver von Bodenstein to suspect Tobias was innocent. Meanwhile, the two police officers get caught up in personal crises that realistically counterpoint the violence that greets Tobias's attempts to re-establish his life, when yet another girl goes missing and masked villagers nearly kill him. Again and again, Neuhaus inserts the old Grimm fairy tale refrain—"White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony"—that describes Snow White, the role of one of the original missing girls in a high school play 10 years earlier, to underscore the grimmest of human emotions: white for icily plotted revenge, red for raging jealousy, black for homicidal madness.--Publishers Weekly (starred
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