Andreas Jungwirth’s first novel is a rites-of-passage tale wrapped in a crime mystery, all imbued with a credible sense of youth.
Disenchanted teen Simon makes a gruesome discovery – his grumpy old neighbour’s dog has been murdered mafia-style, with a ‘last warning’ note and bloody knife left beside the corpse. He phones the police, but Herr Vogt – who owns the land on which the dog has been found – arrives first, and sends Simon off to notify his neighbour of the dog’s demise. When Simon returns, the knife and note have disappeared and Vogt omits to mention either item to the police. Simon does tell the police, but feels pressured to stop talking and runs away. He receives a threatening phone call at home promising all sorts of horrors for him should he talk.
Simon’s intense fear stops him speaking to anyone who could help, reflecting a typically teenage conflict between feeling invisible and at the mercy of adult decisions, and a paranoid sense of being watched constantly.
The crime, the threat, the fear and the final resolution are the bones of the story, but the flesh is Simon’s response to these various elements – how he grows from a silent and disempowered boy to one who is able to tell the truth in its fullness.
All recommendations from Autumn 2014