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I'm a bit confused... I read this book and it bears no similarity to the review posted. This book was nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger and won the Dagger in the library and a proverbial bucket load of other awards. It is intelligent and a clear step above the normal fare. Comparisons with Mo Hayder and Karin Slaughter are totally misinformed. This is clever, well researched and riveting stuff. No matter what you think of the author (okay, the author is a half-German, ex-police inspector - not exactly who I'd like to spend the evening with) but when he's writing about a half-German police inspector (the Germans call them Kommisars) he is on solid ground. This is one of my top five EVER books and I think this review is at the very least strange and maybe even suspect. I personally would recommend this book and the other in the series to anyone who has an interest in something above the P D James/Midsommer Murders/the vicar done it kind of book
Disney has a lot to answer for with their treatment of fairy tales. When they produced their early feature length cartoons such as 'Snow White' or 'Sleeping Beauty', they choose to adapt the later politically correct version of the tales. Gone were the references to rape, torture, murder etc. to be replaced with singing and dancing animals. I hope that no poor unfortunate child gets their hands on an original version of the Grimm's fairy tales as they will be in for a nasty shock. Many of these tales were violent and could easily impact a vivid imagination. Therefore, it seems inevitable that an author would use these gothic books as inspiration for a serial killer.
Fabel is a German detective who heads a small group of police officers trained to look into the more unusual crimes in and around Hamburg. They are called in when the body of a young woman is found near the beach, she seems to have been displayed purposely and is clutching a note in her hand. The investigation soon opens more widely when another body is found and the killer seems to be linking the murders to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Can Fabel and his electric group of officer's track down the killer before they make their way through all of the 150+ tales in the Grimm's book of fairy tales?
As a fan of crime fiction I read a lot of similar types of books. 'Brother Grimm' falls into the camp of extreme macabre fiction similar to Karin Slaughter and John Connelly. As a rule I am not as big a fan of this type of crime novel as the lighter work as they concentrate too much on the grisly details and not in solving the crime. Unfortunately, once again another author has fallen into this trap as Russell's 'Brother Grimm' is just too dark to be instantly enjoyable. I am not a squeamish person as the horror genre is probably one of my favourite, but even I only need to know so much about how a person was murdered.
For the first half of the book Russell manages to balance the dark nature of the crimes and the story in a way that is both interesting and unsettling. The use of fairy tales as a motive for killing is perhaps not the most original, and indeed it's a bit cheesy, but for the first section of the book Russell manages to keep it fresh by referring to the original texts. However, as the murders stack up Russell begins to feel it's important to try and uncover why the killer is doing what they are doing. This means that large parts of the books become a pseudo psychological look at a fictional killer's mind. It soon becomes dull, especially when Russell includes sections of a made up non-fiction book in his novel. I rarely feel that quoting text within a fiction novel works, and my views are supported here. If you add to this the fact that the story become too confusing and intertwined by the end and you have something that drops from being a good read into a chore.
The characters fare a little better than the story does. Set in Germany, Russell is able to populate the book with people that are slightly different from the UK/US residents I usually read. The central character of Fabel is easily the best thing in the book as he tries to solve the crimes whilst not giving into nightmares. The collection of police officers that he surrounds himself do not fare quite as well as they are either boring or a little too stereotypical for my liking. Overall, the characters are good and they interact well with one another, the issue is not with the characters but how Russell treats them. Russell alludes to his earlier book that at least one member of his team was killed whilst others were badly injured. I found it strange that this book would have similar injuries. I doubt very much that the powers that be would allow a crack squad of police to be so cavalier.
Overall, I found 'Brother Grimm' a hard going read. After beginning so promisingly Russell took the novel in a dull direction. Too much time was spent looking at the psychology of the killer and when the action did take place I did not believe that the characters would be so blasé. For a psychological crime thriller to work you have to enjoy the hunt. This book was not a particularly enjoyable experience and like many books in the genre ended up being disturbing for disturbing sake. It was a reasonable book that became too confusing and slightly dull towards the end. I can imagine with 100 pages less waffle Russell can write a very good - if dark - novel.
Author: Craig Russell
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
Jan Fabel is the Erster Kriminalhauptkommisar and the leader of the Hamburg Murder Squad. Together with his team he starts investigating the murder of a young girl found posed on a lonely stretch of strand in Blanknese, Hamburg. In her hand she clutches a neatly written note which seems to suggest that she may be part of something other than a family argument gone wrong or a sexually motivated murder.
When the team believe they may have identified the girl and bring the parents in for an official identification they realise that the killer is playing some sort of game with them. As a couple is murdered in the forest and posed together with some bread crumbs and a neatly written note, the aptly named Fabel starts to see links with the most German of literature the folk stories collected by the Brothers Grimm.
There are links leading him to a controversial author, Gerhard Weiss, whose most recent novel is a fictionalised travelling diary of the Brothers Grimm. In this novel Jacob Grimm and his brother William travel across Germany to collect the tales and myths that they will eventually publish as Childrens and Household Tales (Grimms Fairy Tales) and German Myths. Whereas much of the novel seems to quite truthfully follow the actual travels undertaken by the brothers it also depicts Jacob Grimm as a serial killer, killing women and children in ways replicating the tales that he has collected together with his brother. Fabel and his team are now left to decide whether this is of importance to their current investigation and in doing so immerse themselves in the often cruel and violent tales. Do the fairy tales really have any bearing on our modern life?
During the investigation more bodies turn up and the detectives find themselves in a race against time where reality and myth is closely interlinked. Will they have time to stop the murderer before he murders again?
I was immediately interested in this book when I saw it as I have always found the Brothers Grimms collection fascinating. It is interesting that the same tales, with variations seem to exist in most cultures and I have never quite been able to understand just why these often very violent stories have been considered suitable for kids even after having been rewritten and edited. Even though I dont agree that all books for children should be sugary sweet I dont think rape, incest and murder is entirely suitable either.
This is the second book in Craig Russels Jan Fabel thrillers. Although there are several references to a previous case which shook the Hamburg Murder Squad I didnt find it necessary to have read the first book in order to follow the personal relationships of the second book. In spite of the author being Scottish his description of Hamburg and the German police officers never rang false to me. Russell clearly has a fascination with Germany and the German language. He does use several German words but it is always clear from the context what they mean or they are translated into English, often by Fabel whose mother conveniently is English.
I find the idea for this book absolutely fantastic and incredibly interesting. However, I also feel that the book never takes full advantage of such a great idea. As I was reading I kept waiting for something to happen that would really make this book stand out. Unfortunately, to me, it never did. Although it is a perfectly enjoyable book with a steady pace it never really lifts. Partly I think this may be due to the characters; not all of them are entirely believable. You have the classic female cop, overly aggressive but of course beautiful and simply hiding her vulnerability through this aggressiveness. The author Gerhard Weiss also seems a bit wooden to me and he never really convinces as an arrogant but intelligent man.
In all I would recommend this book as light entertainment (if you can call brutal murders entertainment? You know what I mean!). It could have been an amazing story but unfortunately that opportunity was lost.
I picked up my Arrow published copy at Waterstone's for a mere £3.99 and a quick look on Amazon gives the same price. The paperback version is a mere 439 fairly easily read pages so shouldn't cause anybody great problems.
A girl's body lies, posed, on the pale sand of a Hamburg beach, a message concealed in her hand. 'I have been underground, and now it is time for me to return home...' Jan Fabel, of the Hamburg murder squad, struggles to interpret the twisted imagery of a dark and brutal mind. Four days later, a man and a woman are found deep in woodland, their throats slashed deep and wide, the names 'Hansel' and 'Gretel', in the same, tiny, obsessively neat writing, rolled tight and pressed into their hands. As it becomes clear that each new crime is a grisly reference to folk stories collected almost two hundred years ago by the Brothers Grimm, the hunt is on for a serial killer who is exploring our darkest, most fundamental fears - a predator who kills and then disappears into the shadows. He is a monster we all learned to fear in childhood.