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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Snow White must Die

Nele Neuhaus

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To purchase Snow White must Die

Title: Snow White must Die
Author: Nele Neuhaus
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 371 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Snow White must Die - US
Snow White must Die - UK
Snow White must Die - Canada
Snow White must Die - India
Blanche-Neige doit mourir - France
Schneewittchen muss sterben - Deutschland
Biancaneve deve morire - Italia
Blancanieves debe morir - España
  • German title: Schneewittchen muss sterben
  • The fourth Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff mystery
  • Translated by Steven T. Murray

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Our Assessment:

B : solid thriller, though overloaded and slightly undermined by overkill ending

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Wall Street Journal . 26/1/2013 Tom Nolan
The Washington Post . 27/1/2013 Maureen Corrigan

  From the Reviews:
  • "It has long been the fashion in police-procedural books for officers' private lives to be interwoven with professional duties. Ms. Neuhaus uses this pattern to greater effect than most, indicating parallels and contrasts between the cops' relationships and those of the villagers, and showing how the police's off-duty preoccupations complicate and distract them from work and even jeopardize their safety." - Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

  • "Nele Neuhaus has a flair for the ominous and the ornate. (...) So many subplots fork off the main narrative that this novel should be sold with a GPS. (...) This is not a case for the easily distracted" - Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Snow White must Die is the fourth installment in Nele Neuhaus' series of Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff mysteries -- though only the first to be translated into English. As a series in which the personal lives of the two main characters play significant roles this is unfortunate: the brief glimpses of medical examiner Dr.Henning Kirchhoff, Pia's ex-husband, or the tensions in Oliver's long marriage that come to a head in Snow White must Die, as well as some of the office politics and references to previous cases that come up all leave the reader with an annoying out-of-the-know feeling. (This far too common Anglo-Saxon practice of translating foreign series out of sequence is a Catch-22 of sorts: publishers hold back and wait to introduce foreign series until they've established themselves abroad, and then choose what they believe is the 'strongest' volume to translate first (inevitably one three or four down the line ...), filling in the earlier blanks if and when the series catches on; series are, of course, much less likely to catch on if presented in this ridiculous out-of-sequence way -- or if publishers start off with what is often a weak first volume in the series) .....) So reading Snow White must Die is like coming to a TV series of which you missed the first few episodes. Frustrating though this is, this installment is at least strong enough that even with the gaping backstory lacunae it makes for a decent read.
       Oliver von Bodenstein is the "detective superintendent and head of the Division of Violent Crimes at the Regional Criminal Unit in Hofheim", Germany -- a suburb of Frankfurt. Several other police officers play a role in the story, but Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff is the other main character and investigator; Oliver, however, is not just a police partner but also her boss.
       The story begins with the release, in early November, 2008, of Tobias Sartorius, from prison, where he served ten years for murder and manslaughter of two of his high school classmates. He always maintained his innocence -- though he admits not knowing what exactly happened during the apparently fateful hours that night, an excess of alcohol leaving him with no clear memory. Returning to his hometown of Altenhain he finds his parents divorced, his father's once-thriving restaurant derelict (and a thriving new one open across the street ...), and the locals not in the least pleased to see him come back. In an extraordinarily convenient coincidence at practically the same moment as he gets out of prison human remains have been found at a former military airfield; they turn out to be the remains of one (but only one) of the girls -- suggesting that Tobias may not have been responsible for the deaths after all.
       An attack on Tobias' mother and the townspeople making it very, very clear that they don't want Tobias and what he reminds them of anywhere near make for escalating tension and increasingly desperate actions. The police come up against a number of walls, as the locals keep their secrets and others, like Tobias, don't trust them enough to turn to them (at least at first).
       As Pia recognizes:

There's something going on in that dump of a village. And it's been going opn for the past eleven years. I'm absolutely sure of it.
       Of course, what exactly that web of lies and deceit is -- and the extent of it -- takes a while to emerge. Truth will out, especially when so many know at least pieces of what happened eleven years earlier, but Neuhaus has some clever (and some less clever) explanations as to how so much has been kept quiet for so long.
       New girl in town Amelie befriends not only autistic boy Thies -- who almost never speaks, but does have great artistic talent, and has captured some rather telling scenes on canvas ... -- but also Tobias, and soon she's digging into the case, pleased that what she thought was: "the most boring village in the world" actually offers some excitement (though, of course, it's soon far more than she bargained for). Throw in a former teacher who is now Germany's cultural minister, the high school girl who escaped from Altenhain and became a TV star (but still harbors a crush on Tobias), and a local benefactor who seems to have helped out practically everyone in town -- and who is one of the few to have lent a helping hand, of sorts, to the Sartorius family --, and it makes for a pretty busy story where it's long unclear who is actually doing the right thing (versus who is just manipulating others to get the outcome they're after).
       Neuhaus occasionally has some trouble with all the threads in the crowded novel -- and a few are left dangling quite loosely -- but the thriller-foundations are pretty solid, at least until the overkill ending. Meanwhile, Oliver von Bodenstein's escalating domestic problems make for a nice distraction -- especially insofar as they also distract him from being on top of his job. There's a bit much police to and fro -- yet another sub-plot has one of the officers taking time off and taking an entirely inappropriate second job, for example -- and some of this is underdeveloped (or, more likely, a consequence of readers being at sea regarding what happened in the three previous installments of the series ...), but Neuhaus' presentation of the two main figures is strong enough that the rest doesn't matter quite so much.
       The novel is presented in day-by-day chapters for those few weeks in November when the action unfolds, with Neuhaus constantly switching between scenes and characters -- something she juggles quite well (though the occasional artificial secrecy -- characters left unidentified -- is annoying).
       In its depiction of a small town and its dark secrets, Snow White must Die is a fairly gripping thriller. Neuhaus does overload it -- the novel seems to include everything (including a staggering variety of criminal and otherwise frowned-upon activity) -- and the baggy story spills messily into its end, but for the most part it's a solid read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 January 2013

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Snow White must Die: Reviews: Nele Neuhaus: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German author Nele Neuhaus was born in 1967.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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