Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Read in 2012 - 15: Neben der Spur

A German book for a change, written by Ella Theiss, a German author who is an email friend of my Mum's and sent her this, her latest work, with a personal message for her in the front:

"Neben der Spur" is crime fiction against a backdrop of a topic of current interest for many German readers: biological (vegetarian) food, how it is produced, and the ethics and morals behind it.

Set in and around the German town of Mainz, with an excursion to the Czech Republic, the story starts with the 100th birthday of Hermann Hepp, whose company has been producing bio-vegetarian soups and condiments since before WWII.

Journalists gather for the celebration, one of them being young Karoline Rosenkranz, and it does not look as if any exciting story could come out of this, but then a bomb explodes and a chain of events is set in motion that leads to said journalist investigating the matter on her own accord, nearly resulting in her being murdered.

Both the past and the present bear many secrets, some of them just very sad, others really dangerous, and while for a long time Karoline's suspicions are partly wrong, in the end she does manage to uncover the plot and finds love along the way where she never sought it.

I must admit I would not have read this book had it not been lent to me by my Mum, and while it is a pleasant and fun enough story, I wouldn't call it a "must read". The story is well told, with the chapters jumping in perspective mostly between Karoline and old Hermann (with some other characters getting their own chapter every now and then), but I always find it difficult to get "into" a book when I can not really relate to the main character which is, in this case, Karoline. I am not very fond of her with her silly obsession about dieting and her rather chaotic approach of life in general and her work in particular, but I am sure a lot of readers will like her exactly for that.

Early into the story, it becomes obvious who is behind the strange goings-on, but that person's relationship to another character in the book is only revealed at the end and came as a surprise to me.

The whole setting is well researched, and the author thanks those who helped with her research into such varied topics as preparing for a piano concert, living with an autistic child, and communication in and with the Czech Republic.

It had its gripping moments, and some funny bits, and there is a recipe for home-made vegetarian condiment by Ella Theiss herself.

Now it will go back to my Mum's, and I'll decide what book to read next - I have so much choice these days with my Kindle and the books I was given while in England.


  1. I rarely read contemporary German fiction, anything I read is the 'must-read', literary stuff, like Walser and Mercier. But I read German non-fiction, I am about to order 'Die Deutsche Seele'.

    What a wonderful time you spent in Italy; I've never been to lake Garda. When I was small people already went there for holidays. Some of my rich Mitschueler even had summer houses there.

    1. Same here, Friko; I read little German, usually just the odd book I see at my Mum's or she recommends after she has read it, and then I go back to other things, fiction and non-fiction in English, and of course there is always my beloved ZEIT.
      Lake Garda truly is a beautiful part of the world, and I can understand why so many Germans like going there for their holidays; it is not too far to drive (5-6 hours from our area) and still "different" enough from home to be interesting.