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by Wolf Haas and Annie Janusch, trans.
Melville International Crime, January 2014
192 pages
ISBN: 161219270X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As RESURRECTION opens, an elderly couple is found frozen to death, each on opposite sides of a ski lift: she headed downhill and he headed uphill. The police are unable to figure out how this happened, so the task falls to an ex-policeman now working as an insurance investigator, Simon Brenner. Brenner moves into Zell, the small village at the base of the Swiss ski resort, and slowly insinuates himself into the local culture. As he quietly investigates, he visits Vergolder, the wealthy relative of the dead couple who is one of the only suspects, and Vergolder's nephew, an institutionalized young man who is the only other suspect. Each has provided an alibi for the other, effectively ending the police investigation.

Small bits and pieces of the various intrigues in town are caught by Brenner over the many months he is in Zell, but they don't coalesce around a theory until the very end of the book. There are terrorist threats to demolish a dam and destroy the ski resort, romantic confusions involving Brenner and the local schoolteacher, a reporter with an existing relationship with Brenner, a German woman with no hands who is visiting town, and many more confusions swirling around the investigator. Brenner struggles with migraines as he attempts to find clues among the circumstances, and he worries about writing his report for the insurance company even as he can't quite seem to force himself to get it done.

A Keystone Cop scenario involving a fire and a misreported gas station serves as a final means of bringing the very loosely woven threads of the plot together, and in the end it is Brenner who is able to see beyond the obvious to find the true killer. The gas station scene is the only one in the book that pulled me in, as suddenly Haas's narrative device falls away long enough to provide a sense of entering the scene.

RESURRECTION is told from a narrator's perspective a narrator with an idiosyncratic voice and a German accent. The entire story is told as if by a friend, in an intimate and colloquial manner. It is such an unusual device, particularly in that the narrator speaks somewhat broken English in the translation, that it separates the reader from the story. There is no disappearing into the plot with this book. The same distance is true of the characters as well. Although Brenner's unique personality is clear, he is described by a narrator who is likewise unique, placing the reader alongside but never inside Brenner's mind.

This is the first of the Simon Brenner series to be translated into English, although it was written in 1996. There are seven books in the series so far, so the reader who enjoys Haas's style has much to look forward to.

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, February 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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