The Ice Queen, by Nele Neuhaus

21853622The Ice Queen is the third in German author Nele Neuhaus’ Pia Kirchhof and Oliver von Bodenstein series of mysteries. In this outing, Korchhof and Bodenstein are called in to investigate the strange, vengeful deaths of three elderly Germans and a deadly conspiracy that is claiming the lives of the suspects at an alarming rate.

Jossi Goldberg is known as a wealthy Holocaust survivor. No one knows why anyone would want to kill him, still less what the mysterious numbers 11645 left at the crime scene mean. The murder gets somewhat less mysterious when the medical examiner finds the remains of a blood group tattoo on the inside of his right arm—a conclusive sign that Jossi Golberg is actually a former member of the SS. Before Kirchhof and Bodenstein can get very far in their investigation, their boss calls them off and Goldberg’s body is claimed by his American son. Then another elderly German is found murdered. His basement is packed with Nazi memorabilia. All the clues are pointing to someone getting revenge on people who have eluded justice for more than sixty years. A third death of an old woman in a nursing home make the police even more suspicious about the one person that links all three victims together: Vera Kaltensee. Vera is very wealthy and known for being charitable. Still, it doesn’t take long before the cracks in her persona and lies start to widen.

Kirchhof and Bodenstein don’t have things easy. Their boss pressures them to bring in a suspect and wrap the case up quickly. But every person who could be considered a suspect ends up messily dead. Everything points back to Vera and the Kaltensee clan. The investigation lurches on as best it can. The break in the case comes when Kirchhof and Bodenstein finally find people willing to tell them the truth about Vera and her sixty-year string of crimes.

I’m not sure if it’s the translation or Neuhaus’ style, but The Ice Queen is a clumsy book. All the subtext and clues are spelled out explicitly. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. Worse, Neuhaus hobbles her detectives. There are moments when I wanted to reach into the book and take over the case. At the very least, I wanted to shout at them to pursue this or that lead or talk to this or that person. The only reason I can see for the inconsistencies in the detectives’ abilities is to spin out the drama a little more.

I haven’t read the first two books in the series and I felt like I was missing quite a bit when it came to the relationships between Pia, Oliver, and the other Kripo detectives in unit K-11. I would recommend that interested readers read the series in order as Neuhaus is telling a story about her characters as much as she is writing mysteries. However, given the sloppy construction of The Ice Queen, I doubt that I’ll go back and do so myself.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 13 January 2015.

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