Revenge is a dish best served cold in Bernhard Aichner’s crime novel, Woman of The Dead. The book was a huge success in Europe and Anthea Bell has done a good job in translating this story from its original, German text. But something may have been lost in translation because what’s left behind is quite cold, clinical and gory (and often just for the sake of it).
The story stars an unlikely but strong female protagonist; she’s a mortician, widow and mother named Brunhilde Blum. She had had an idyllic life with her husband Mark until he was tragically killed in a hit and run accident. Blum decides to delve deeper into her husband’s life because she suspects that his death was a murder. Over time the lines between investigation and revenge become blurred.
One of the biggest problems with this novel is that it’s hard to relate to Blum. In the opening chapters she kills her parents because she claims she was abused. Unfortunately, Aichner fails to provide enough of a back story and justification for this unconscionable act. So while the character is a strong and determined woman, at times she is difficult to engage with, especially as she rediscovers what she is really capable of.
The story sees Blum also investigate the crimes perpetrated against an illegal immigrant named Dunya. The latter had been subjected to years of physical and sexual abuse and held hostage in a cellar by a group of five men known as the: photographer, huntsman, priest, cook and clown, respectively. The methods Blum uses to discover the identities of these men seem improbable and unbelievable as the story just clicks into place a little too easily. The narrative itself is also not as thrilling or gripping as other books from this genre, as these can often be hard to put down.
Woman of The Dead has an interesting-enough premise as it poses the question, “How far will you go in order to avenge a loved one?” It also has a strong female protagonist, which is commendable. But this character is also quite a flawed one and the writing is too repetitive and staid for it to really cut through. This novel may be full of dark secrets, sex and revenge but there is still a little spice or something missing, meaning it’s a good book but not a great one.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/woman-of-the-dead/9259297/