Description: Andrea Maria Schenkel (Bunker; Ice Cold) has taken the real history of a brutal, remote murder and twisted it into something even more unnerving for this, her first novel (originally titled Tannod and now being published for the first time in the U.S.).
Based on an unsolved Bavarian crime committed in 1922, The Murder Farm is set in the wake of World War II, told by an unnamed narrator. It includes excerpts from interviews with friends and colleagues of the murder victims, and diatribes from various villagers who felt that the family had it coming. At first, it’s unclear precisely what has transpired, or if anyone actually is dead–the interviewees make grave, vague reference to “the day before it happened” and so on, leaving the reader in suspense. But as the interviews continue and it’s revealed that the entire Danner family was killed, everyone from the eight-year-old friend of the little dead girl to the elderly village gossip agrees that there was something wrong with the peculiar Danners. As the narrator delves into the family’s history and how their remote “murder farm” got its nickname, he–or she–reveals the villagers’ isolation, ignorance and superstitions.
The novel’s short length belies its cleverness. The Murder Farm is not precisely a mystery; it’s more an introspective look at a small town and the dark secrets that it hides. Comparisons to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood are obvious, and this compelling novel will likely appeal to fans of literary fiction and true crime as well as lovers of more typical mysteries.
Opening: He enters the place early in the morning, before day-break. He heats the big stove in the kitchen with the wood he has brought in from outside, fills the steamer with potatoes and water, puts the steamer full of potatoes on the stove-plate.