I’ve been trying to scrub Woman of the Dead, by Bernhard Aichner, out of my head since I finished reading it earlier this evening. I’ve read some disturbing books in my time, but Woman of the Dead commits the crime of being disturbing and poorly written. I think I only finished it because it was so short I got to the end before I expected it.
Brünhilde Blum—she prefers to be called Blum—is introduced in a brief prologue in which she murders her adopted parents by allowing them to drown off the coast of Croatia. Over the course of the book, Blum becomes an accomplished serial killer. Her parents’ murder—which Blum justifies by revealing her father’s torturous apprenticeship of Blum into the family business of embalming—leads Blum to her husband, Mark, who passed off on the deaths as a tragic accident. Eight years later, Mark is killed in a hit and run accident less than a block from their house.
Blum shuts down after Mark’s death. The discovery that it wasn’t an accident revives her and Blum sets off not only to find the person or people responsible, but to end them. I picked up Woman of the Dead because the description made it sound like an interesting revenge tale. I like a good revenge. But Blum’s revenge is too easy. First, she stumbles onto her husband’s last case via his recorded interviews with an illegal immigrant named Dunya. Then, she stumbles on to Dunya at the grocery story. Dunya points her to a quintet of sadistic rapists and Blum easily finds one of them. That one points her to the next, and so on and so on through the whole pack of them.
I might have been able to get along with this if the entire hadn’t been told in a series of paragraphs set off from each other with asterisks. I don’t know what Aichner was trying to achieve with this, but it annoyed the bejeesus out of me. The narrative just lists the events of Blum’s story instead of describing them. We never really get to know any of the characters. While we spend the most time with Blum, she strikes me as a very flat character. I’d like to think of her as a female Dexter, but she’s never developed enough as a person for that. All I can say for sure is that she’s a sociopath who doesn’t mind killing people. Woman of the Dead, apparently the story of a trilogy according to Goodreads, contains the seeds of an interesting story. The seeds, regrettably, are never given the chance to sprout.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 25 August 2015.