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Psychological thriller set in Berlin

10th May 2024

Anatomy of a Killer by Romy Hausmann, psychological thriller set in Berlin.

TR: Jamie Bulloch

Psychological thriller set in Berlin

I read Dear Child by Romy Hausmanm several years ago and it really stuck with me because of the writing, the translation and the reverse timeline story, which was very novel at the time.

Now, Berlin 2017 and young girls have been disappearing over the past few years. There has almost been one killing per year since June 2003. The victims’ whereabouts can sometimes be found through the deliberate signage of a fluttering red ribbon.

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Early in the novel, internationally renowned Professor Walter Lesniak is arrested as the perpetrator of these crimes. Professor Death, as he comes to be known in the media, has a daughter, Ann, who is utterly taken aback that her father could be even remotely capable of such heinous crimes. She sets out to discover the truth. Is he culpable or is someone else still free to roam the streets, blithely carrying on with the killing spree?

Psychological thriller set in BerlinThe narrative hops between 2017 and a more contemporary period and is threaded through with some chapters devoted to “US”, some recordings carried out in 2021 and a few “diary” entries made by Ann as she moves from childhood into adulthood. I found the characters a little dry; the storyline itself ratchets up at intervals but it had the propensity to feel confusing at times, which meant I experienced it as quite stop/start trajectory. The translation is very good, carried out by a very experienced translator, so the uneven pacing will be in the original German construct. The cover with the moth is definitely channelling The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Berlin is largely used as a backdrop in the novel and comes through quite clearly at times:

Marzahn: “Outside, the Landsberger Chaussee flies past, almost entirely swallowed up this morning by the grey fumes from laundry extractors. It’s hard to identify the street signs, tower blocks and trees on either side of the road, and it’s only possible at all if you’re familiar with this area.”

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