I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel
Published by Quercus on June 5, 2008
A whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner, the farmer, an overbearing patriarch, his put-upon devoutly religious wife, and their daughter, Barbara Spangler, whose husband, Vincenz, left her after fathering her daughter, Marianne. Also murdered was the Danners' new maidservant, Marie, who was regarded as slightly simple. Despite the brutal nature of the killings and the small village where it has taken place, the police have no leads. Officially the crime is unsolved, until the truth cracks into the open.
This reads like a true crime novel, and is so incredibly depressing.
I did receive this as an ARC from the publisher.
Originally published in Germany as Tannöd.
I am so hoping this is not a true story because it is so grim. I had just finished reading Renate Stoever’s Escape From Plauen, and as I started reading The Murder Farm, I was taken right back to post World War II Germany.
It reads like a series of interviews of people involved in finding or knowing the victims. Each relates their own experiences with the Danner family, both past and what happened that day, and Schenkel does a great job of teasing you along, with each person’s story revealing a little bit more. More about the Danners’ background, the truth of the family, and the truth of that day.
It’s also true that it is so much easier to unburden yourself when the person you’re talking to won’t be around, won’t be there to point fingers.
I did have major problems with the central characters. I can’t stand a weak person who allows others to bash them around. Who accepts the kind of treatment meted out to her. Who allows her daughter to be treated like this. Then there’s the town officials’ bigotry. Keep in mind that this is a very depressing story.
That cook-housekeeper…what a piece of work! Too typical that she distorts what she knows. Really, Schenkel does a great job here as well. She’s created very individual characters with unique personalities. Ugh. Schenkel made me see each one.
With all this build-up, the last character to be “interviewed” will shock you. And again, parents should be licensed. All that she went through, all that she suffered from both sides…
Frau Danner is beaten down by life and her husband — he only married her to get her farm. Once he had it, she became incidental. So it’s a grim family and farm that Marie enters into service with, and she’s determined to leave as soon as she can find another job.
She won’t have long to look.
The very religious Theresia and the perverse Hermann Danner run the farm. Barbara Spangler is the daughter whose refugee husband, Vinzenz, left her while Marianne is the daughter’s daughter and Josef is her son. Amelie was a Polish foreign worker on the Danner farm during the war; she took a different way out to escape. Anna Hierl is another former maid. Michael Baumgartner is casual labor; he isn’t interested in staying long at any one place. Karl was another casual laborer.
Betty is 8; Marianne is her best friend. Auntie Lisbeth works for the Americans; her mother doesn’t like auntie’s black boyfriend.
Babette Kirchmeier is an 86-year-old widow who remembers the slow, but goodhearted and hardworking Maria Meiler. Ottmar was Frau Kirchmeier’s husband. Traudl Krieger is Marie’s married sister. Erwin is Traudl’s husband, eager for Marie to be gone. Ott is their jerk of a brother.
Hermann Müllner is a teacher, and Reverend Father Meissner is the parish priest. Maria Lichtl is the priest’s unchristian cook-housekeeper. Ludwig Eibl is the postman. Kurt Huber is a young mechanic charged with fixing the root-slicing machine. Dagmar is the 20-year-old daughter of Johann Sterzer, a farmer; he and Alois Huber, his farmhand, went back to the Danner farm with Hansl Hauer, the son of a Danner neighbor. Maria Sterzer is Johann’s wife. Pierre was a foreign worker on the Sterzer farm during the war.
Georg Hauer is the father. Of Hansl and Josef. Anna is Georg’s sister-in-law who came to help when his wife first took sick. Frau Anna Meier is the shopkeeper who told Traudl about the position at the Danner farm. Franz-Xavier Meier is the weasel of a mayor.
The cover is of the Danner farm at dusk, dark blues in the sky with the farmhouse itself a dark mass beyond a field of green.
The title is what the farm becomes, The Murder Farm.