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by Nele Neuhaus and Steven T. Murray, trans.
Minotaur, January 2016
416 pages
ISBN: 125007168

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nele Neuhaus' Detective Pia Kirchhoff mysteries are intricately plotted, and I AM YOUR JUDGE is no exception. Pia is just about to go on a honeymoon trip with her new husband when a sniper kills a woman walking her dog. Pia gets the call, and since she has finished packing and has the time, she jumps in to help her boss and partner, Oliver von Bodenstein, by showing up at the scene until he can arrive. Bodenstein is short-handed, given Pia's vacation and a flu that seems to have decimated his staff.

While it wasn't clear at the outset whether the shooting was a random affair or a deliberate assassination, at least to the police, a pattern soon emerges as another sniper attack takes place. Pia struggles with deciding whether to stay to help with the case or go on her honeymoon, with the former winning out. Once she has decided to stay and join the investigation, she takes a lead role in untangling the complicated motive behind the shootings. Additional shootings take place and the sniper starts leaving clues as to his choice of victims in obituaries.

Throughout the book, Neuhaus offers a great deal of information about the medical and legal processes and consequences of organ donation. She does not do any favors for those who need transplants and are waiting for an organ donor with the correct blood type to die. Having read the book, some may reconsider signing their own organ donor cards. In addition to this theme, Neuhaus deals with the issue of privilege as Bodenstein tries to make a decision about whether to remain in the police force, and she handles a variety of family situations sensitively.

The intricacies of the plot and of the relationships make for slow reading. At just about 400 pages, the book is overlong to maintain suspense. Pia, Bodenstein, and their team are exhausted throughout the book, and realistic mistakes are made in questioning suspects. The exhaustion carries over to the reader, however, making the reading of the book as much of a trudge as the police work at times. The book would have benefited from a little less detail and a little more speed. Nonetheless, the underlying theme was fascinating, and Neuhaus does manage to make the reader care about Pia and Bodenstein, and even some of the more transitory characters.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, January 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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