Snow White Must Die, by Nele Neuhaus

I'm not a big mystery reader, but I like to periodically give the genre a shot, just to make sure I'm not missing out on something awesome. My latest attempt was Nele Neuhaus's internationally best-selling novel Snow White Must Die. While I found it readable enough, it's definitely not the book that's going to convert me into a hardcore mystery fan.

After serving ten years in prison for a double murder that he is, oh, 90% certain he didn't commit, Tobias Sartorius is returning home to the tiny German village of Altenhain. The townsfolk are anything but welcoming, and any hope of returning to a normal life is dashed when one the body of one of his alleged victims is finally discovered. The police re-launch an investigation into the cold case, and detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are soon convinced that Tobias is far from the only plausible suspect—in fact, half the town seems to have secrets connected to the long-ago murders, and they've had years to cover up any evidence.

There was plenty to like about Snow White Must Die, although the plot relied on a lot of far-fetched coincidences. I appreciated Neuhaus's gift for whipping out quick, intriguing character sketches, which kept me invested in the story without getting bogged down by any single character's troubles. There was plenty of action, the mystery was resolved in a complete and satisfying fashion, and I liked the nods to classic fairytales. If you're looking for a respectable-looking (yet still luridly entertaining) novel to read on a beach this summer, this is a perfectly fine choice.

Unfortunately, there was a minor element of this story that really bugged me, and the character involved will presumably play a bigger role in later books. [SPOILERS AHEAD.] When Oliver discovers his beautiful, neglected wife has responded to his complete lack of support and/or visible interest in her by having an affair, it never crosses his mind that his own behavior might be at least partially to blame. Instead, he launches into a self-pitying downward spiral, eventually vowing to start living life by his own rules (which he was totally doing anyway). I guess it's possible Oliver will get less immensely slappable in future books, but right now the real mystery in Snow White Must Die is why anyone would chose to build a series around such a profoundly unpleasant character.
Posted by: Julianka


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