The Sweetness of Life

MacLehose: Quercus. Dec. 2014. 240p. tr. from German by Jamie Bulloch. ISBN 9781623658533. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623653064. F
It's Christmastime in Furth am See, a sleepy village high in the Austrian Alps, but the picturesque landscape becomes an unsettling backdrop to murder when an old man is mutilated outside his home only a few minutes after finishing a game of Parcheesi with his granddaughter. The child might know what happened, but she's been completely mute since finding her grandfather's body in the snow. Sensitive child psychiatrist Raffael Horn tries to get the girl to open up, while seasoned police detective Ludwig Kovacs searches for answers of his own. Their parallel investigations delve under the town's placid surface to reveal an underbelly of depression, delusion, and dysfunction. Horn and Kovacs's perspectives alternate with those of the town's most disturbed individuals. But which one of these dark minds is the killer?
VERDICT The American debut of Viennese crime writer/child psychologist Hochgatterer adds another stop on the Euro-noir itinerary of quaint vacation spots sullied by disquieting psychological crime. Give this winner of the European Literature Prize to fans of Anne Holt and Karin Fossum's moody, character-driven page-turners.

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