1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird & Wonderful
If you like the novels of Jo Nesbro you might like this weird and wonderful mystery from Austria. This book is the first of his 7 novels that feature the ex-cop turned hired driver, Brenner. The book is told by an unnamed narrator. Some of the asides and musings go on too long. But for the most part Haas has written a compelling book.
I do not want to give anything...
Published 16 months ago by MovieGuy
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a gripping read!
This was a slow read and wasn't a real page turner. I wouldn't recommend this book to others that like mysteries or police procedurals.
Published 2 months ago by Carol A. Kendrick
Most Helpful First | Newest First
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird & Wonderful,
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)If you like the novels of Jo Nesbro you might like this weird and wonderful mystery from Austria. This book is the first of his 7 novels that feature the ex-cop turned hired driver, Brenner. The book is told by an unnamed narrator. Some of the asides and musings go on too long. But for the most part Haas has written a compelling book.
I do not want to give anything away. Let's just say that Brenner has his hands full in this story. I thought that the English translation was good.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and wonderful,
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a gripping read!,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting plot,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
4.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to the translator,
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)For years people thought this book was untranslatable because of Haas' writing style, which is fantastic in the original German. I have to give it to the translator, she had a tough job ahead of her and she did a superb job of it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkly Comic Narrator Elevates This Austrian Crime Novel,
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)This is the seventh book in the "Brenner" series by Austrian writer Haas, but the first to appear in English. I generally hate it when series books are translated out of order, since it always leaves me with a nagging feeling that there's a whole lot of depth and backstory to the protagonist that I'm missing out on. That was especially the case with this book, which employs an unusually intrusive omniscient narrator who offers a snarky running commentary to the proceedings.
Brenner is an antidepressant-popping ex-cop, currently working as the private chauffeur to a wealthy developer, mainly ferrying the man's two-year-old daughter back and forth between Vienna and Munich. The story itself revolves around what happens one night when Brenner stops at a gas station to fill up and grab a coffee, and comes back to an empty car. Although he is immediately fired by the developer and his wife (an abortion clinic doctor), Brenner naturally can't sit back and let the police fumble around -- he has to find the girl himself. Both parents had enemies due to their professions, and Brenner starts poking his nose into their affairs in order to try and suss out the kidnappers.
What makes the book marginally more interesting than your average detective procedural, is the style and tone of the darkly comic narrator. The asides and interjections break up what is, at its core, a pretty simple narrative. They also provide a great deal of foreshadowing, enough for the reader to know from very early on that this is a story with a significant body count. Depending on the reader, this can be taken blackly humorous, or possibly annoying -- personally, I enjoyed it even though it lessens the suspense.
5.0 out of 5 stars More Brenner, please,
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)Translated from the German by Annie Janusch
"Personally, I prefer to look on the positive side of life these days. Not just Murder He Wrote all the time, and who-got-who with a bullet, a knife, an extension cord, or what else I don't know. Me, I'm far more interested in the nice people now, the quiet ones, the normals, the ones who you'd say--they lead their regular lives, abide by the law, don't mistake themselves for the good lord when they get up in the morning, just nice tidy lives.
Look at Kressdor's chauffeur, for example."
That chauffeur is Brenner, or Herr Simon, a former police officer now assigned to be the personal driver of a two-year-old little girl whose wealthy and high-profile parents need to make sure she's safe from being kidnapped. It seems a lowly task, except that right off, Brenner admits that his most interesting converations in life so far have been with Helena, the babbling child, and he's paid well for what he finds comforting and solid work. His biggest challenge appears to be how to sneak Helena a chocolate bar without her parents finding out. But, it's this very chocolate bar that gets him in trouble, because in purchasing it, he lowers his guard, just the once, and she is taken.
Brenner is a brooder, and his instinct is to tear himself apart with guilt, and go back to figuring out how to find her. Now, there's no shortage of brooding, ex-cops turning into vengeful detectives in modern fiction, but Brenner is compelling because he's brought to light by the omniscient narrator of the novel, who lets us in on Brenner's inner struggles. He's suffered recent depression, gets really excited about clean sheets, seems an linguistic expert in dialects, adores Jimi Hendrix, and can't keep his eye off the clock...counting the moments since she's gone missing and hoping against the worst. And we learn why he loves to drive:
"...Because that's one of the many advantages of a car. You can listen to music in private, you can enjoy nature without exertion, and when in despair, you can let out a cry."
As the reader learns about Brenner, and watches him search, they soon begin to wonder about the narrator as well. Because this isn't some neutral observer: this narrator is an in-your-face and aggressive voice who tells the reader to "listen up" and "pay attention". He's clearly on Brenner's side even when the kidnapping plot gets messy:
"Between the seventy-fourth and the eighty-eighth hours, Brenner did some first-rate investigative work that was never fully appreciated afterward....a detective can't be praised for everything he did right. But because everyone glossed right over it, I'd like to at least touch on it briefly. I have to say it was brilliant... [...] He achieved peak detective form there, and there's only one thing to be said: hats off."
For those who enjoy detective novels, this is no procedural. Much of the actual work of solving the crime is left out in favor of developing the plot: mainly, what is going on with Helena's parents, an abortion doctor and a mega-developer, that may be related to her disappearance. Brenner's musings on both of their occupations gets far more time than chasing down forensic evidence, which keeps this from feeling like so many popular crime novels that appear to be repeats of CSI episodes, where the story is lost in the jargon.
My only minor qualm about the story was the curious introduction of one character, a police officer named Peinhaupt. He's all set up to be a prime character, and drawn with incredible detail. I was surprised to see that his character sort of vanishes in the action of the mystery, only to reappear later in a minor scene. While this is part of a series of books about Brenner, the seventh in fact, it is the first Brenner novel to appear in English. I'm curious if Peinhaupt might have had a role in earlier Brenner novels that might explain his appearance here, or if he may be in line for a series of his own.
Time, in minutes, hours, and days, plays a huge factor in the plot...the narrator and Brenner both dwell on every hour that goes by (pay attention, you're reminded). And while Brenner searches and the narrator speculates, these time stamps are the real events that make up this fast-paced story:
"Then the worst thing that can happen to a detective happened to Brenner. Fifty-seven hours after the girl's disappearance, he became innocent."
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "My Grandmother always used to say to me, `When you die, they're gonna give that mouth of yours its own funeral.',
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)(3.5 stars) In the wake of the popularity of Scandinavian mystery writers like Jo Nesbo, Arnaldur Indridason, Henning Mankell, and Stieg Larsson, this mystery by wildly popular Austrian novelist Wolf Haas has just been translated into English, the first of seven novels featuring Simon Brenner to be available in the U.S. Though Haas's novels have been described elsewhere as "noir," like those of the previously named, more famous authors, this novel is actually quite different. Here the novel's smart-alecky and in-your-face first person narrator, with his appreciation of irony and his uniquely hilarious observations, keeps the reader smiling even as horrific murders are taking place. The narrator himself does not appear to take the characters seriously, and the novel's resulting style is closer to that of an "entertainment" or farce than it is to the dark and often cynical mysteries identifiable as "noir."
The novel's wry narrator is NOT Simon Brenner, who is ostensibly the main character. Brenner, a former policeman, is now working as a chauffeur for a fifty-year-old man who runs a major development company with offices in Munich. The man's much younger wife, a physician, works in Vienna, where she operates a clinic offering abortion services. Their two-year-old daughter Helena is ferried back and forth regularly between Munich and Vienna so that both parents can share her company during the work week. On one occasion, however, Brenner stops for gasoline, and Helen disappears. There is no dearth of suspects since the father is working on a major development which not everyone supports, and the mother is facing daily attacks from anti-abortionists. Fired from his job, Brenner decides to track down the kidnapper himself and is soon involved in several gory murders.
Haas's narrator is continuously witty, making casual comments which readers will love. In grousing about the impolite and arrogant attitudes of children these days, for example, he remarks that "Kids nowadays grow so fast you can't use size as a point of reference anymore--Is that the chief physician striding out of the maternity ward, or is it the newborn itself? Even then it's the exact opposite of how it used to be--Rule of thumb, the less arrogant one's the physician." Similar comments appear throughout the novel. The author pays lip service to major themes as Brenner, throughout the novel, half-heartedly tries to consider big issues, such as when life begins, whether there is a God, and how much He may control what happens in life, but most readers will be repulsed by the conditions under which Brenner believes he finally sees God and the inescapable conclusion.
Despite the wry and often pointed commentary, the novel's style can be awkward. The narrator is sometimes too helpful with his information and goes too far, saying things like, "Listen carefully. You need to take note of the following..." And at one point, when only a couple of murders have taken place, the narrator self-consciously reminds himself in retrospect that if he'd "just paid attention, five people wouldn't have had to die." Suspense about the number of future murders is sacrificed here to the narrator's second-guessing about his own actions, suggesting that the author is having more fun with his narrator than with the story itself. A final caveat. Four murders and one attempted murder take place under the same truly nauseating circumstances, and these feel more like adolescent bathroom humor than like noir.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea at all,
This review is from: Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) (Paperback)There is an interesting story here - a good set up (although a bit slow and convoluted) but - I jut cannot stand the narrator!! His lengthy and tiresome asides, comments, hints, etc. slow down the story so much it just seems dull, wordy, slow - interminable. The main character seems interesting (although rather witless at times) but we don't really get to see things through his eyes, rather through the eyes of the rather hyper narrator - who is not ingratiating, but rather, simply annoying and overly intrusive - and often really not funny or interesting, just noise. If the book had been written in a straight style, without the annoying narrator, I might have enjoyed it much, much more. I can see how this could be made into an effective movie - first step being to get rid of the narrator and stick with the story.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Brenner and God (Melville International Crime) by Wolf Haas (Paperback - June 26, 2012)