SNOW WHITE MUST DIE has a lot of plot. The book opens with the release of Tobias Sartorius from prison. He completed a 10-year sentence for the murder of two teenage girls (it was never made clear but I assume the sentence was so short because he was a minor himself when the crimes were committed) in the small German village of Altenhain and plans only to briefly visit his home before finding himself a new life far away. But home isn’t what he thought it would be. Tobi’s parents have divorced, the family business has failed, his father has been reduced to a menial job working for a village bigwig and Tobi feels duty bound to stick around. As Tobi tries to remember his past (the night of the murders is a black hole in his memory) and plan for the future there’s an attempted murder, a kidnapping and miscellaneous beatings taking place while the villagers all try to hide what they know about the earlier events.
SNOW WHITE MUST DIE has a lot of characters too. There’s Tobi, his parents (including his mother who has changed her name), the only person to keep in touch with Tobi during his time in prison (she too changes her name and is referred to by both), the victims, their surviving family members, a bunch of neighbours/villagers whose connections to each other and the main character require the keeping of a large, mental relationship map, a young waitress who becomes besotted with Tobi, two main police detectives (with associated spouses and children) and another half-dozen or so background cops. It is a veritable plethora of names but the book never really engaged me enough to keep track of them all.
In short SNOW WHITE MUST DIE has a lot of stuff in it but not, for me at least, a lot of substance. None of the characters are terribly well fleshed out (heaven knows there’s hardly time once they’re all named and sent flying around the place on half a dozen plot developments each) and the story ends up being more of a soap opera than anything else. Virtually everyone who is introduced has a major secret to hide or some major crisis in their personal life (often nothing to do with the central plot) and Tobi, for whom I ought to have felt sympathetic as it appears he has been unjustly treated, just grew increasingly annoying as he imagined himself in love with one person after another. There are also evil Machiavellians, dead bodies lovingly looked after in cellars, more extra-marital affairs than I could count and a fairly ludicrous ending. I doubt I’d have finished this one if it hadn’t been my book club’s choice this month.
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Translator Steven T. Murray
Publisher Macmillan [Original edition 2010, this translation 2012]
Length 374 pages
Book Series number something in a series, this is the first available in English
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