At some point over the last few months I started explaining why I chose each book I read (as if one ever really needs a reason), and with this novel, the backstory is the only interesting bit of my review. I found it on a doorstep, in a box labelled “Take me home” or “Please take”. I knew what I was getting into, since it was clearly marketed as local crime, with a butt-ugly cover, but honestly? How can you not rescue a book from a box on a doorstep? Funnily enough, only a few weeks later a friend asked me whether that was a typical German thing, leaving things you don’t need on your doorstep, and yes, it is. I love it – it’s like a small pop-up charity shop!
I took it home because it was a book (see above) and because I thought it might amuse me for a while. I’ve read local crime a few times before, and in most cases these are a laugh, with the author trying their best to cram in as much local colour as possible while not being particularly skilled in both crime writing and just plain… writing. (Before you hate me – I wrote one myself for NaNoWriMo, and I admit that mine is terrible, too.) Anyway. Novemberasche is set in furthest south-west Germany, an area I don’t know at all, and so the local colour obviously wasn’t meant for me. If anything, the descriptions of endless roads and roundabouts near certain supermarkets made me giggle. Maybe Aldi pays for namedropping in novels.
An amateur sky-diver dies when his parachute doesn’t open, and a high-school student is found dead in a graveyard, his wrists showing marks of barbed wire, and a small piece of paper is found stuffed in his mouth, with only 3 identifiable words. The sky-diver is the brother-in-law of the police inspector on the case, and so both cases are connected before we find out just how connected they are. Which of course is obvious before the book has even started. The inspector now has to deal with his heartbroken sister and her best friend Marie Glücklich (Yes. Mary Happy.), who OF COURSE has only just recovered from a previous run-in with the same inspector and a crazed murderer (presumably axe-wielding, and presumably called Hans Horrible). It’s all set up so neatly. Oh, and of course Mary Happy and Inspector Sommerkorn (It may sound German, but NOBODY is called Sommerkorn in Germany. It sounds totally made up while trying to be authentic.) are in love. But they can’t find the heart to confess to each other. I forgot what the case was all about. Oh yes, neo-nazi high school students, computer games and helpless parents. It doesn’t matter. We are meant to care about it just as we are meant to care about Mary Happy and her man, only we don’t. In the end, after having been saved by him, Mary-injured-in-hospital suddenly decides she doesn’t want him after all, because he’s “too narrow-minded”. Huh? If that’s supposed to be a romantic cliffhanger, it doesn’t work. Because I don’t care.
Worst of all, Novemberasche isn’t even over-the-top bad. There are no laughs other than the ridiculous names, an escape from a mental hospital, which turns out is just a case of getting up and leaving through the front door, and some very cliche stylistic means. It’s just the kind of book you read quickly and then put in a box on your doorstep.