Review: SNOW WHITE MUST DIE by Nele Neuhaus

SnowWhiteMustDieNeuhaus17294_fSNOW 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.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Steven T. Murray
Publisher Macmillan [Original edition 2010, this translation 2012]
ISBN 9781447227083
Length 374 pages
Format paperback
Book Series number something in a series, this is the first available in English

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7 Responses to Review: SNOW WHITE MUST DIE by Nele Neuhaus

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – It certainly does sound like there’s an awful lot going on in this novel. And it’s interesting how having a lot of characters and plot threads doesn’t always mean a strong and solid story. I’ll have to think about that; it’s an interesting point…. I’m sorry to hear this one disappointed you, but you’ve made some strong points here.


  2. Kathy D. says:

    Not for me. Thanks for the warning.


  3. Heidi says:

    I loved it! I thought the different plotlines made it an interesting read – funny how different things appeal to different readers. Though I did read it in its original language rather than the translation, maybe that made a difference? I have also read earlier books in the series, and the characters grow more familiar as it goes along.


    • I often wonder how much difference the translation makes Heidi – but it’s my own ignorant fault for not being able to read anything but English. I do hate not having the opportunity to read earlier books but, again, it’s all my fault 🙂


  4. Too bad the publisher chose to start with #4 — the first book introduces the cops extremely well, so you don’t forget who they are!


  5. TracyK says:

    This review is interesting, Bernadette. I will wait around until earlier novels come out and see if this is a series for me.


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