A whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch, his put-upon devoutly religious wife, and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter, Marianne. Also murdered was the Danners’ new maidservant, Marie, who was regarded as slightly simple. Despite the brutal nature of the killings and the small village where it has taken place, the police have no leads. Officially the crime is unsolved. And then a former resident returns home The Murder Farm is an unconventional detective story. The author interweaves testament from the villagers, an oblique view of the murderer, occasional third-person narrative pieces and passages of pious devotion. The narrator leaves the village unaware of the truth, only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.
*I received this book from Netgalley for an honest review.
The Murder Farm (also known as Tannöd) by Andrea Maria Schenkel has such an interesting way of telling a story. Various villagers recall to the narrator the events leading up to the family’s murder. While the villagers never find out what happened to the Danners, the reader is able to see who murdered the family and the motivation behind the act.
I’ve never read a book that told the story this way, but it works well. Having the story told through so many perspectives creates a different experience for this mystery. With most of the characters only receiving one chapter, it makes the reading go quickly. You don’t have to worry about any dull spots because you know the next chapter will be with another character. Unfortunately that also means that if you like a character, you know your time with them is limited.
However, I really like that every character is unique and seems like a real person. Each one has a distinct voice which sets them apart from everyone else. Each of the characters interact with the family in different ways and due to that you get to see how the family is viewed by the town and learn a little more about them. During the third-person passages, the reader sees the family and how they live prior to their deaths. Unfortunately, since you don’t get to spend much time with them, you don’t get very attached. It’s not as powerful as it could be when they die. If those passages had been longer or more frequent, I really think the story would have benefited significantly from it.
While I like short novels, this book seems a bit too short. It’s easy to fly through the chapters because they are only a few pages long, but the story doesn’t benefit from it. There is plenty of room for more detail, and I would have liked to have more time with each character and especially the family. The characters could have been more complex if the chapters were a bit longer. At the end when you find out who the murderer is, it seems rather crammed in. There’s too much going on and not enough pages to give it the detail that it deserves.
The Murder Farm is unique and enjoyable. It’s a mystery that keeps you guessing and turning the page. While we don’t get to know the characters that well, I feel they all have distinct voices and are interesting enough to keep the story going. The story is told in a very uncommon way, but it works for the plot. If you’re looking for a short mystery, you should definitely give this book a chance.
My Rating: ★★★½