2 German Crime Ladies: Charlotte Link and Petra Hammesfahr

There are two German crime writers who are more famous than most others in Germany and these are Charlotte Link and Petra Hammesfahr. While Charlotte Link is probably by far the most read German author she has so far not been translated into English. That’s why I was so pleased when I saw that finally it’s going to happen. Her novel The Other ChildDas andere Kind will be published at the beginning of 2012. Here is the blurb:

A suspenseful and atmospheric new psychological crime novel from ‘Germany’s most successful living female author’

An old farm, a deserted landscape, a dark secret from times past with fatal consequences for the present. In the tranquil northern seaside town of Scarborough, a student is found cruelly murdered. For months, the investigators are in the dark, until they are faced with a copy-cat crime.

Charlotte Link is such a good example for another type of genre that German writers excel at and that is historical fiction. The amount of books and authors is amazing.

Link is famous for her psychological novels in the vein of Mary Higgins Clark and for her long family sagas and historical novels. The Other Child which I have not read yet – I wanted to but 700 pages were not feasible for German Literature Month – combines both. The story is set in 1970 – 2008 and during WWII in England. Young women are being killed, the crimes resemble each other and the trace to the killer seems to go back to WWII. One of the themes is the children that were sent to the country during the war.

Link has an easy but very gripping way of writing. I’ve read many of her psychological thrillers of women who are being stalked by ex-lovers. Her world is often one in which men are predators, but her descriptions are great and atmospherical and the pace is appealing. If this is really, as it seems, her first novel in English, I’m not sure how good a choice it is. It’s cunning to test the waters with a genre blend, I suppose, because if this book is loved, chances are high that her psychological thrillers and her historical novels will be equally liked.

For German Literature Month I picked up a slim volume of short stories by Petra Hammesfahr. While these stories have not been translated, Hammesfahr’s novels are slowly available in English and seem as succesful as they are in her native Germany. While Link is strong on plot and pace, Hammesfahr is even stronger on psychology. Whenever I start one of her novels, I don’t want to stop. I had the same experience when reading her short stories. Accurate descriptions, psychological insights and a surprising ending. Good people turn into criminals because the monotony and madness of daily life becomes too much to bear or highly dysfunctional people become delinquent because there was just this one moment that made them snap.

Hammesfahr, unlike Link, combines the very ordinary with the uncanny, the sick, the revolting. The outcast who may not be guilty, the housewife who may be.

The novels available in English so far are The Sinner Die Sünderin and The LieDie Lüge. I would hope that others will be translated. Most of all Der stille Herr Genardy.

Of the three German crime novelists I reviewed, Noll is the most literary, Link, the most mainstream, and Hammesfahr is somewhere in between. For you to choose what you prefer. I like them all, depending on my mood.

The review is part of German Literature Month Week II – Crime