Monday, May 16, 2016
Review of The Murderer in Ruins by Cay Rademacher (Arcadia 2015, German 2011)
The Murderer in Ruins is the first book in a trilogy following the work of Chief Inspector Frank Stave in post-war Hamburg. The tale does a good job of situating the reader in the apocalyptic and freezing landscape of the city, filled with people struggling to make ends meet, find missing relatives, and to rebuild their lives. Stave is one of them, haunted by his dead wife, searching for his missing son, and struggling to solve a handful of murders. Rademacher provides a sympathetic and engaging portrayal of his lead character, and populates the tale with other interesting characters. Where the book struggles, however, is with respect to its plot. There are too many elements that do not add up – a major murder spree is being investigated by a team of three and one secretary as opposed a large dedicated team of inspectors, sergeants, constables; the murder book goes missing and Stave does nothing about it; a witness very clearly signals evidence and Stave ignores it – and there are a couple too many plot devices. Moreover, the ending is well telegraphed. The result is a tale that has a good sense of place and time and an interesting set of characters, but felt somewhat clunky and staged at times.