Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review of The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel (2006, English translation 2008, Quercus)

Ten years after the end of the Second World War and a small village in Germany is devastated by the murder of an entire family and their maid on a remote farm.  They have been clubbed to death with a pick-axe by an apparent mad-man.  The family largely kept to themselves, using transient men as cheap labour, and were plagued by rumours of incest.  The police and locals are baffled by the murders and there are few leads to follow.  Intrigued by the case, a former resident returns to see if they can make sense of what the press have dubbed ‘the murder farm’.

The intrigue of The Murder Farm is created through the whodunit storyline and its telling. Taking a relatively novel approach, Schenkel tells the story through the voices of a number of people connected to the farm - the classmate of one of the children, the sister and former employer of the maid, local farmers, the shopkeeper, the local priest, and so on.  Each has a distinct voice, with the text being a transcript of their account given to the faceless narrator.  In tandem is the account in a distant third voice, including the incantation of prayers.  The technique works well, and each voice is well crafted, the translator Anthea Bell doing a good job of translation.  The story itself, however, is quite short and linear.  Each person only speaks once and, as a result, the tale seemed a little underdeveloped, with little in the way of suspense.  At no point is there a sense of what the narrator thinks happened and how this aligns or diverges from the third person account of what actually occurred.  Overall, a story more noted for its telling and prose, than the tale itself.

1 comment:

col2910 said...

I can't remember exactly when I read this, oh yes I can June, 2010 - just looked it up.
Vaguely, I can recall it started well, but sort of petered out by the end.
I haven't rushed to read anything else or hers subsequently