Beware a woman scorned. Ingrid Noll's Rosemarie Hirte is not a woman you want to annoy. Had it not been for an obsession with what Rosemarie sees as her last chance for love, she might have been a good friend to have. German author Noll has a knack for creating quirky, unrepentant characters that you know you should really despise, but you almost have to admire for their moxie. Well, almost that is. Most noirish crime novels are pretty grim, but there is a vein of black humor that seems to run through Noll's work, and Hell Hath No Fury (Der Hahn Ist Tot) is no different.
I like crime novels where the author delves into the psychology of a character to see what makes them tick. Like her novel Head Count that I read last year and enjoyed, this is a story where the solution to a crime is not the point of the story, but rather the peeling back of the layers into a criminal's mind to see what motivates them. The story is macabre but not graphic even though murder is committed almost without a second thought. As a matter of fact it's pretty much committed without any thought except out of a feeling of rage and jealousy. This is a story, however, that works best if you're willing to accept a scenario that may not be entirely plausible. In Head Count, Noll was pitch perfect in her presentation, but there were some awkward moments this time out.
Rosemarie is a staid middle aged unmarried woman with a good job but uneventful life. She does everything she should and does it properly and without much imagination, but when her close friend takes her to an art lecture, Rosemarie becomes instantly smitten with the professor giving the talk. Rainer Engstern is an attractive, refined, well spoken man. He seems self-assured and when Rosemarie discovers he has written a book, she reads it cover to cover taking in the biographical details, including the fact that he doesn't live very far from her. She's determined to find some inconspicuous way to cross paths with him and contrive a meeting with the idea he'll fall in love with her.
When a coworker in her office becomes ill and must spend time in the hospital, Rosemarie offers to take care of her dog, and he becomes the perfect solution to her problem. What could be more ordinary than taking your dog out for a walk, and why not to Engstern's neighborhood. The two do cross paths, but he takes note of her only in an absent-minded manner, so Rosemarie follows him and begins watching him through his window. And when any other woman gets too close, Rosemarie has no qualms of separating the two. Permanently.
I'm hesitant to give away more of the details, but I don't think it would spoil anything to tell you that Engstern and Rosemarie do sort of get together. It's the 'how' that felt implausible to me. Engstern seems to find every other woman, even those few close to Rosemarie more attractive than she. And when an obstacle appears in her road to happiness, well, there's only one way to get rid of it (or get rid of 'her' as the case may be). Noll throws in a few twists and turns along the way to make things interesting, and while the crimes may just go undetected, it doesn't mean the characters won't get what they deserve. I'm still undecided whether I think some of the moments in the book were just a little too far fetched or not, but I like Noll enough to be forgiving if there were a few clunky moments. The fact that the story remains with me still even though I read it weeks ago, leaves a good impression.
I'm not familiar with how many books Ingrid Noll has written, but I've only come across three that have been translated into English (Hell Hath No Fury very competently translated into English by Ian Mitchell), none of which are in print here in the US. At some point I'll have to track down The Pharmacist, which Caroline wrote favorably about.
I think I need a little change of pace so I've picked up a very light cozy mystery. It's been years since I've read anything by Anne Perry, and I've wanted to try her William Monk series set in Victorian England so have picked up The Face of a Stranger. A nice straightforward historical detective story to cleanse the palate a bit before I embark on my next crime adventure. I've heard many good things about Jussi Adler-Olsen's The Keeper of Lost Causes (Mercy in the UK), or maybe I'm ready to try Mo Hayder's The Devil of Nanking. But first I need to see how Monk will solve the murder of Captin Joscelin Grey!