Title: Böser Wolf
Author: Nele Neuhaus
Read: March 24-28, 2013
An einem heißen Tag im Juli wird die Leiche einer 16-Jährigen aus dem Main bei Eddersheim geborgen. Sie wurde misshandelt und ermordet, und niemand vermisst sie. Auch nach Wochen hat das K 11 keinen Hinweis auf ihre Identität. Die Spuren führen zu einem Kinderdorf im Taunus und zu einer Fernsehmoderatorin, die bei ihren Recherchen den falschen Leuten zu nahe gekommen ist. Pia Kirchhoff und Oliver von Bodenstein graben tiefer und stoßen inmitten gepflegter Bürgerlichkeit auf einen Abgrund an Bösartigkeit und Brutalität. Und dann wird der Fall persönlich.
In her latest novel “Böser Wolf”, Nele Neuhaus goes one step further than in her five previous novels and lets her main characters investigate a crime which transcends local boundaries and uncovers a large conspiracy so evil that it will sicken and disturb most readers when thinking about these crimes happening to real people, in real life.
Several threads start in the first part of the book:
Pia Kirchhoff has settled into a comfortable life with her new partner Christoph, trying to get used to looking after a small child when his granddaughter Lilly comes for an extended visit from Australia. With Oliver von Bodenstein away on a trip, she is the first person on call when the mutilated body of a teenage girl is found floating in the Main. Despite extensive investigations into the identity of the girl, the team are unable to make real progress in the case, as nobody even seems to be missing the teenager. An autopsy reveals a horrific history of old injuries pointing to years of unspeakable abuse and captivity.
In the meantime Hanna Herrmann, a famous TV talkshow host, is about to contact a person who could potentially provide her with the biggest story of her career. After recent complaints about her and her show, which centres around heartbreak and personal disaster, often at the expense of the victims themselves, Hanna really needs this break to keep her show on air. But Hanna may have underestimated the lengths other people may go to to keep her from finding out the truth – brutally attacked, raped and left for dead she barely escapes with her life with no memory of how she got into this situation.
Emma, eight months pregnant with her second child, is worried about her five year old daughter, whose violent outbursts and strange behaviour seem too extreme to be the normal temper tantrums and mood swings of a child her age. On top of that, her husband has been acting cold and remote and Emma is sure that he is having an affair. At a school reunion Emma bumps into her old friend Pia Kirchhoff, and the two women reconnect again after many years.
In Neuhaus’ typical style, all these separate threads ultimately connect and culminate in a terrifying finale involving all characters, this time becoming very close and personal to Pia Kirchhoff’s own life.
Again I was totally captivated by the plot and found it hard to put the book down until all was revealed. Personally, I love the way Neuhaus introduces many separate storylines and characters, which make reading the novel an exciting journey and introduce many different interesting elements and angles. However, by centring the novel around a topic which elicits very strong emotions in most people, the violent and sexual crimes against children, I feel that Neuhaus paid the price of making the story a bit too black and white. In previous novels there were always several sides to the contemporary topic explored, with the varying emotional responses of supporting characters lending the story depth and credibility. A difficult topic such as explored in Böser Wolf creates many “no-go” zones, often at the expense of character development. I found that this led to several unanswered questions as to the motives and means of the main perpetrators in the novel, as well as a conspiracy almost too large to be believable for the setting.
However, Neuhaus’ passion about exposing the subject to the wider public is evident, and she certainly manages to elicit strong emotions through uncovering the horrible-beyond-words aspects of the crimes. I shudder to think of the emotional toll researching such a topic must take, and take my hat off to the author for being brave enough to tackle such a horrific task. Living quite a sheltered life in our quiet corner of the world here, I was sickened to think about organised crime against children – an unspeakable horror. In that regard Neuhaus’ latest thriller serves two purposes: the entertainment value of an intelligent, well-written murder-mystery combined with raising awareness of horrific crimes committed in our own environment. Since awareness is the first step to change, and packaging it in an approachable format is a great way to get the message out, I hope that the awareness Neuhaus raises with her novel will indeed work towards making a difference.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and found it hard to put down. Kirchhoff and von Bodenstein have become so familiar over the course of the series that I am eager to find out what the future holds for them, and look forward to Neuhaus’ next book in the series!