Zen And The Art Of Murder by Oliver Bottini
Louise Boni is a Black Forest chief inspector in Germany. She is struggling with the aftermath of a messy divorce and the killing of a murderous paedophile. To cope, Louise has turned to alcohol and it’s impacting upon her career and life. Her colleagues are losing faith in their usually reliable senior detective.
When Boni is dispatched upon a report of a wandering Buddhist monk making his sandal-clad way through the snow of the Black Forest, she stumbles upon a much wider problem than the strange ascetic. The monk, Taro, is terrified of something but won’t tell anyone what or why. He has also received a head injury consistent with being struck. Louise’s gut instinct tells her that there’s a much bigger story hidden behind the Japanese monk’s simplistic behaviour.
As her colleagues follow Taro they are attacked by gun-wielding assassins. One is killed and the other is severely injured. Suddenly, Louise is thrust into the middle of a major investigation and her alcoholism becomes more apparent. The department consider her a liability. Yet even with a suspension she perseveres in trying to locate the missing monk and discovering who attacked her fellow officers.
The trail takes her to the Kanzan-an, a Buddhist monastery just across the border in France where Taro was resident. It is here that Boni first encounters the child adoption agency, Asile D’enfants, responsible for bringing orphaned children from the Far East to Europe. Louise begins to suspect the worst, that she may in fact be investigating an illegal child-smuggling operation that facilitates illicit adoptions or worse.
This novel was originally written in German and it won the German Crime Fiction Award. Rebel Voice can only state that either the book has lost quite a bit in translation, or else the Germans have very low standards for their prize-winners. The characters in this tale were disjointed, inconsistent and incomplete. Louise Boni presents as someone who is entirely neurotic to the point of being unable to function, yet is allowed to run around Germany with a gun.
The story revolves around Boni but focuses upon people trafficking, much of which is to facilitate paedophilia. It’s a horrid subject but one that deserves to be well told. Sadly, this novel does not do that and leaves the reader with the impression that the author was unsure of what it was he hoped to achieve.
Rebel Voice enjoys stories that are set in locations outside of the more usual surroundings of major US cities. A thriller based in both Germany and France should have been a winner. Yet Oliver Bottini, or his translator, has managed to make a hames of both setting and topic. The plot had potential but was weakly executed and a reader might find their attention beginning to wander as the narrative ties itself in knots with repetition and insinuation apropos of nothing.
Sult scale rating: 4.5 out of 10. Interesting setting and subject matter, but poor delivery, or poor translation, from German original. Rebel Voice likes its stories about paedophiles to involves lots of bloodied perverts screaming for their sick lives but being denied. Zen and the Art of Murder did not provide this necessity for the subject matter. Best to give this one a miss.