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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Auferstehung der Toten

Wolf Haas

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To purchase Auferstehung der Toten

Title: Auferstehung der Toten
Author: Wolf Haas
Genre: Mystery
Written: 1996
Length: 172 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Auferstehung der Toten - Deutschland
Quitter Zell - France
  • Auferstehung der Toten is the first in the P.I.-Brenner series
  • Auferstehung der Toten has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealingly off-kilter mystery

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Auferstehung der Toten ('Resurrection of the Dead') introduces private investigator Simon Brenner. He spent almost twenty years with the police, but now works as a detective for an agency -- though, as with much else in the Brenner-novels, the details only emerge over the course of the book (and, regarding his life and background, the series).
       Haas has a roundabout way of presentation that is unusual for the mystery genre, especially since it extends to the crimes themselves. Auferstehung der Toten begins with a description of the discovery of two murder-victims -- but the crimes happened a while back, in December, when it is now already late summer. The opening paragraph ends: "Aber jetzt pass auf" ('Now pay attention') -- as if that were ever required in a would-be thriller's opening pages. But how Haas unfolds his stories does require that a different sort of attention be paid. Not that he complicates matters -- the description of the discovery of the bodies, frozen to death on a ski lift, is gripping -- but because the focus isn't where one expects. He describes the discovery of the bodies, but he barely discusses the crime. It only very slowly becomes clear, over the course of the book, who the victims were and what happened to them.
       The distance from the crime -- it is now months later -- and the circumstances -- Brenner, who was still with the police when it occurred, but is now a P.I. who has apparently been looking into the crime from an insurance company for months now -- make for a different atmosphere than your usual mystery. Of course, the bodies were cold by the time anyone even noticed a crime had been committed, but the feel is of a cold case overall.
       The crime takes place in Zell and, as the opening sentence notes: "Von Amerika aus betrachtet, ist Zell ein winziger Punkt" ('As seen from America, Zell is a small speck'). Surrounded by high mountains, the Alpine resort is idyllic, and even the crime isn't of a messy, bloody sort, just a clean quick freeze -- but Haas nicely conveys a more ominous atmosphere with reminders of the nearby dam (a 'symbol of the republic', built back in 1951) that, should it ever burst, would simply wash away the whole town and everyone in it .....
       The very wealthy American victims were relatives of one of the families in Zell, and it's no surprise that the crime looks to be a family affair. The prime suspect has a solid alibi, but of course there's more to the story than first meets the eye -- and it takes Brenner a while until he can find and put the pieces together.
       The mystery is decent enough, but it's the telling that makes the book. There's an omniscient narrator who occasionally (but very rarely) makes his presence felt with some comment or aside -- and, more frequently, addresses the reader personally, turning to the second person. Most of the time the focus is closely on Brenner, but it also goes elsewhere, and it's in the set pieces -- when a gas station goes up in flames, for example -- that Haas really excels, his off-stride narration which doesn't get right to what would seem to be the point (the gas station burning !) but rather loops around to how the local volunteer fire department gets around to trying to put it out making for a completely different sort of suspense.
       There's a very Austrian feel to the novel, as much in the tone as the actual language (differing here from the German spoken in Germany not so much in true dialect but in word-order, expressions, and formulations). From how the people are referred to -- it's always 'der Brenner' (i.e. with the article -- 'the Brenner') rather than simply 'Brenner', as any proper German would have it -- to descriptions that don't focus nearly as much on precision as on a general feel, it has a laid-back feel that you'd be hard-pressed to find in a Berlin or Hamburg mystery. Haas' roundabout approach, of often not getting directly to the point, or focussing on what seems to be secondary to the main events, is particularly successful and appealing
       Good fun.

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Auferstehung der Toten: Reviews: Wolf Haas: Other books by Wolf Haas under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Wolf Haas was born in 1960, and is best known for his series of Brenner-mysteries.

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