Monday, December 17, 2012

Brenner and God

Brenner and God
Author: Wolf Haas (translated by Annie Janusch)
Melville International Crime, 2012
224 pages

Earlier this week I found a package in my mailbox. Of course, this is the time of the year when an occasional unexpected package might show up. But this one was from and it was covered with German language import labels so I knew it must be something from one of my friends in Vienna. Sure enough, it was a copy of Brenner and God, the first English translation of a detective series written by Austrian author Wolf Haas, sent by my friend and fellow book lover IG. :)

Brenner and God is actually the seventh (I think -- based on what I could find online, anyway) book in a series featuring Simon Brenner, who has to be one of the most likeable detective-types I've come across in recent fiction. Now, I'm not sure why the publishers decided to introduce us English readers to Haas's work with the seventh (if it actually is the seventh) book and not, say, the first? Fortunately, it doesn't matter. We simply slide on in to the story as told to us by a rather quirky universal omniscient narrator, learning what we need to know about our main character exactly when we need to know it.

A former policeman, Brenner suffers from depression and has recently (and reluctantly) begun to take antidepressants. He doesn't have a home or a family and works 'odd jobs' to get by, and this is fine with him. His current employer is a wealthy construction magnate, Kressdor, and his much younger wife, a doctor who runs a clinic that (among other things) provides abortions. Since Kressdor works out of Munich and the doctor's clinic is in Vienna, Brenner's primary job is shuttling their two-year old daughter, Helena, back and forth between the two cities in a very fine BMW. Brenner knows his job is much more than chauffeur; one of the reasons Kressdor hired him is to protect the little girl from potential kidnappers.

So when on one random early morning Helena disappears from the car at a gas station while Brenner is inside paying (and buying her a chocolate bar), he finds himself suddenly unemployed and looked upon with suspicion. There's no shortage of potential bad guys, from the creepy leader of a pro-life group who enjoys bullying the clinic workers and patrons . . . to Kressdor's unsavory hunting lodge buddies . . . and there are lots of others, too. But no one has demanded ransom.

Brenner's guilt over 'losing' Helena combined with a rather unique sense of justice helps him snap out of the funk he fell into the night of her disappearance. The now former chauffeur goes back to his roots, becoming his own private detective. He'll stop at nothing to find the girl -- even if it means going without food, sleep, and other necessities. Brenner may be a good guy but he's one tough mutha.

Thanks again to IG for sending this jewel of a book my way. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I adore the Brenner character. In fact, I've already pre-ordered the next Wolf Haas book to be translated into English. The Bone Man is scheduled for release next March.

One final note: Hats off to Annie Janusch for an excellent translation.  :)