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Zen and the Art of Murder: A Black Forest Investigation I (The Black Forest Investigations) Hardcover – 11 Jan 2018
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An exceptional crime novel. (Kolja Mensing TAZ)
It's been a long time since any crime author started out so strongly, so visually. (Tobias Gohlis Die Zeit)
Oliver Bottini, one of the few German authors who play in crime-writing's premier league, really knows how to tell a good story. (Frankfurter Rundschau)
Tension without brutality, local colour without small-minded sentimentality, good intelligent reading with depth. (Christine Hage Handelsblatt)
A piercing examination of our reality . . . Bottini uses the full potential of the genre to look deep into humanity's abyss and sees there the concealed traumas of German society (Tomasz Kurianowicz Die Zeit 2017-11-02)
The first of his award-winning Black Forest novels to appear in English. It has an arresting opening image: a Buddhist monk with a head injury strides across the snowy landscape of the border country between Germany and France . . . a surprising and genuinely shocking case. (Joan Smith The Sunday Times)
A nicely done shock thriller (Weekend Sport)
An atmospheric, original story that will keep you hooked to
the final heart-rending revelations
Bottini has established himself as a strong new voice in crime with this inventive mystery . . . The fictional landscape is beguiling and the story utterly gripping (Book Noir)
The first in a gripping new crime series set in Germany - the Black Forest Investigations - now longlisted for the CWA International Dagger 2018See all Product description
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However, Louise's boss Bermann does not acquiesce to her request for more help. Tragedy ensues with a cop shot dead, a critically injured Hollerer, and the disappearance of the monk. Louise is forced to go off sick whilst she addresses her issues with alcohol. Bermann and others believe the monk is the prime suspect, unconvinced by Louise's conviction that others are responsible. Louise fears the monk is dead, and looks into Kanzan-an, a buddhist monastery with the help of Richard Landen. Boni's investigation has her travelling back and forth across the border, ignoring orders to not get involved. She follows the thread of Asile d'enfants, who share the Kanzan-an, a charitable organisation that places orphan children from the Far East and Thailand with new adoptive families. Louise finds her life in danger as she uncovers a network of human trafficking, set up to sexually abuse and exploit children.
Amidst the high drama of the criminal investigation, Louise is drawn into the thinking and philosophy that lies behind Buddhism in her search for identity and address the wreckage that is her life. She becomes obsessed with Landen and his marriage to the pregnant Japanese Tommo, harbouring lustful thoughts of him whilst instigating sexual encounters with the younger Anatol, a taxi driver. Louise is the child of a Frenchman and a German woman, she is warm, wild, sad, original and a woman facing the abyss which accounts for her interest in Buddhist theology. This is a wonderful and entertaining read, and I loved its wintry setting in Germany and France, for which Louise with her dual background in the two countries is the ideal protagonist. I hope Bottini's other books in the series get translated soon, cannot wait to read them. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC. (
Highly intrigued, I settled for a good read, but sadly found it hard to adjust to what follows. Much of the novel is a psychological study of its main character, Chief Inspector Louise Boni. She seemingly is on the edge of a nervous breakdown - mind in disarray ever since she shot a killer dead. Troubled dreams. Hallucinations. Much drinking is her way of trying to cope. Understandably colleagues are increasingly concerned about the loose cannon in their midst.
Enjoyment depends on how much the reader can sympathize with her plight. Many instead may simply lose patience, wish she would opt for therapy, and stop the rather unconvincing go-it-alone tactics (especially in the Black Forest at night).
If only I could have felt more involved! Then those final revelations would have been truly heart-rending.
Most unusually the book contains a bonus. A short story tells of that killing which so traumatized Boni. It may be an idea to read that first - all the better to understand what ever since she has been going through.
Hopefully Zen will help Boni find inner peace, rendering sequels more palatable for readers rather disappointed this time round.
As far as the novel itself is concerned I enjoyed in very much. Set in small town Germany, the plot revolves around big time crime. Reminiscent of some of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels. The main detective while interesting is a little formulaic ...maverick cop dealing with her own personal demons while also fighting the bureaucrats at work. Other than that a very atmospheric, original story that kept me hooked to the end.
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