"This Story of the Horrifying Murder of an Entire Family Will Keep You Awake for Many Nights."
Reviewed by Lynn Cunningham
Posted June 16, 2014
Mystery | Literature and Fiction Literary | Suspense
The Danner family was an odd bunch, to be sure. There were
the two elder Danners, the old man and his wife, along with
their adult daughter, Barbara, and Barbara's two young
children, Marianne and Josef. The patriarch of the family
was widely known as a mean man who ruled his family and farm
with an iron fist. Barbara's husband is believed to have
simply left her in the middle of the night never to return.
There are many rumors that surround the Danners but no one
really knows them that well as they live on a remote farm in
Bavaria called Tannod.
One night, everything that anyone had ever suspected or
thought they knew about the life of the Danners becomes more
complex when the entire family plus the new maid is murdered
with a pickaxe. The horror of the act is bad enough.
However, no one seems to be able to figure out who
would have done such a thing. Even the two young children
were not spared.
Based on a true and unsolved murder of an entire family on a
Bavarian farm in 1922, THE MURDER FARM is written by Andrea
Maria Schenkel. It was first published in German and later
made into a motion picture. She sets her tale in the
mid-1950's and uses an interview format to tell the story.
Included in these interviews is the actual murderer but
don't expect to figure it out too quickly.
THE MURDER FARM is one of the creepiest and most mesmerizing
books I've ever read. Obviously, the murder of an entire
family in the dead of night carries its own creep factor,
but there was something about the way Ms. Schenkel crafted
her tale that makes you feel as if you're a bystander at the
events. You know that feeling where there is something just
too horrible for words but you cannot look away? That's the
way THE MURDER FARM affected me.
Writing a murder mystery of this type can be difficult to do
without putting in all of the gore that accompanies it, but
THE MURDER FARM was less about gore and more about the
mystery. Ms. Schenkel has done what all writers strive to do
by creating a story you will not be able to put down once
you begin reading it. THE MURDER FARM is a page turner
of huge proportions. Don't start reading it unless you can
finish it in one sitting and be sure to keep the lights on
while you read.
The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder
Farm, “With only a limited number of ways in which
violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use
considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre.
Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel.”
The first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German
Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The
Murder Farm and Ice Cold.
The Murder Farm begins with a shock: 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 little
Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result
of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s
death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also
murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie.
An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is
an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person
narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that
will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not
even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to
reach the shattering conclusion.
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