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

26 thoughts on “2 German Crime Ladies: Charlotte Link and Petra Hammesfahr

  1. I haven’t read either of the three you mention. Link and Noll never appealed to me and I have never even heard of Hammesfahr (I don’t like crime novels too much, unless very cosy). The latter sounds interesting though, I will look for some of her short stories. Thanks.

  2. Charlotte Link has many books translated into French, but honestly, without your recommendation I would never have bought any of them. Why? Publisher J’ai Lu + appalling covers = they look more Fitzek than Chandler. Not my taste.

    Hammesfahr has only one book translated into French and it’s OOP.

    • Charlotte Link is really quite similar to Mary Higgings Clark. She is mainstream that’s for sure but I still enjoyed her whereas I had a problm with Fitzek from the start. Link has written a lot, a whole lot and not all are equally good. You would prefer Hammesfahr.

  3. Thanks for introducing us to two more wonderful German women writers, Caroline! Both of them looks quite fascinating in different ways. I want to try Petra Hammesfahr’s book that you are reading first, because it is a book of short stories. Happy Reading!

    • I think they are each good in very different ways. I like them all depending on the mood. I will try te Link although it’s a chunkester but I like the WWII topic. Hammesfahrs short stories haven’t been translated yet, but she is a quick read, you coud try a novel.

  4. I really must get me some German crime. Link sounds right up my street as I love anything with a psychological dimension. I always feel that my education left German literature hanging pretty much after the Second World War (with the exception of Boll, who’s hardly modern now). It’s great to learn about more contemporary writers.

    • You might like Hammesfahr, she is very suspenseful and psychlogical. With Charlotte Link, who is extremely prolific there are books that are not as good as others. I’m really interested to see how The Other Child is.

  5. Thanks for this introduction to these authors, Caroline. I am failing miserably with reading German literature this month, but am building up quite a list of books to read!

    • They are very different but I think both are really good reads, depending on the mood. I’m looking forward to your review. I’ve read a few of her other books but I got The Sinner. I was running out of time or I would rad it instead of the short stories.

    • I wouldn’t say I was crazy about them either but I did like them. Some more some less but Der stille Herr Genardy is very good. and so are some of Link’s. Guess we have to wait to find out what your choice is.

  6. Definitely books to read – I shall seek them out. I also recommend Christian von Ditfurth whose Paragon of Virtue was translated into English a couple of years ago.

    I greatly enjoyed After Midnight which you wrote about last month so thanks for that. I’ve just written a review of it.

    • Oh that’s wonderful. She is such a great writer, isn’t she?
      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll take a look.
      I think you would like Ferdinand von Schirachs “crime” that Priya from Tabula Rasa reviewed.
      I hope you will like Hammesfahr and Link.

    • I like the combination of WWII and a crime in the present and was really frustrated that I couldn’t read it now. I had already read the first 15 pages and it seemed really good.
      It’s out in March and if it sells well…
      Jackie from Farm Lane Books hast just reviewed The Sinner and does sound very well written.

  7. very interesting!!! I like the way you compare the 3 authors in the same genre. I never see authors based on how literary or how mainstream they are…it all comes to how good the story they have written.

    and talking about author, my fav is a famous mainstream 😉 and I really love the book I am currently reading

    • I’m glad to hear that it’s because I bought the hardback…
      I think some people do really not like mainstream and it’s fair to tell them what to expect. The story alone will not say much about the style. I mostly prefer more literary but when mainstream is well done? Why not.

      • Then you are one of these people 😉

        “There are also books full of great writing that don’t have very food stories. Read sometimes for the story, Bobby. Don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words – the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers that won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”

  8. I tried to read Petra Hammesfahr’s The Lie, but I gave up on it. I would like to finish if only to find out the solution, but I never seem to get far when I pick it up. I love the premise, but not sure whether it is the fault of the translation or the plotting–it tended to plod along. I have heard very good things about the English translation of The Sinner, however, and have it on my pile to read as well–not sure it will happen this month, but soon I hope. I do plan on at least starting the Noll very soon. And now I am adding the Link book to my wishlist as well (will have to buy the UK edition as we seem to get even fewer translated crime novels here in the US than in the UK–or at least publication is far, far slower!). She sounds right up my alley!

    • Too bad about The Lie but The Sinner seems really good. When I saw which ones they chose to translate I was a bit suprised as there are some that are considered to be far better that’s why I haven’t read these two yet although I remember The Sinner is very well liked in Germany too.
      I really have feeling I will try The Other Child soon. All of Charlotte Link’s books are around 500-600 pages but they are usually speedy reads. I think you might really like her. Hopefully you can get it.
      I would be curious to find out which of the two Hammesfahr Guy has read.
      Lizzy reviewed Fitzek. She loved the book and Emma hated it. Interesting sometimes, isn’t it. You haven’t tried him so far?

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