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A Place to Die: An Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery (edition 2010)

by Dorothy James

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Member:melydia
Title:A Place to Die: An Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery
Authors:Dorothy James
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Collections:Read and Released
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, mystery

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A Place to Die: An Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery by Dorothy James

Austria (1) Calibre (1) fiction (1) iPad (1) Kindle2 (1) mystery (3) Vienna (1)
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Neither Eleanor or Franz Fabien are too thrilled to leave their home in New York to fly to Franz's home in Vienna to visit his mother. But she recently had to move into an assisted living facility and he feels it is his duty, even if they really do not get along and he tries to keep contact to a minimum. Haus im Wald seems like a pleasant enough place..well, until one of the residents, a rather dashing older man with an active social life, ends up bludgeoned to dead and police inspector Georg Buchner takes up temporary residence to solve the crime. But as even more people die both we and Buchner have to ask ourselves just how deep these mysteries may go.

There are a number of sub-plots that greatly add to the interest of the story. A number of the characters, not unusual considering the setting, spend a fair bit of time musing the subject of growing older. And again, considering the people involved and their age, the last generation that was alive during WWII and shortly after the war, the subject of living during the presence of the Nazi regime plays not a insignificant roll in the story.

But ultimately, this is a character driven book. This is not a cozy little mystery, full of sweet old people. No, the characters of A Place to Die are an interesting and complex group, with present day passions and secrets that reach back to the time of the Nazis. American Eleanor Fabian is at the center of the story and one of the few really likable people we meet. I think you will soon agree that she deserves a better life that being married to the quite annoying Franz. And then there is Inspector Buchner, who will make a great lead for a new series. He is smart and low key as he slowly and carefully untangles all the relationships and tries to make sense of each resident's version of what happen on the day the murder took place.

But each of the minor characters is great as well. We have the rather smarmy Dr. Hofer, a private physician to many of the residents, Frau Huber, the housekeeper, who, shall we say, like to take a hands on interest in seeing that everyone is satisfied with her care. We have the retired Lutheran religious sisters, Sister Agatha and Sister Barbara, who are the basis for more than a few rumors and, of course, Frau Hagen, a retired opera singer and the reason the murdered man had a Viagra prescription. These are just a few of a rather large cast, but each character is so well flesh out that the reader should have little problem keeping them all straight. And each is interesting in their own way..and a good suspect in the murder.
These folks may be old, but they are not dead yet.
Well..except for the ones that die. ( )
  caitemaire | Feb 11, 2012 |
"The drama of their lives is played out within their own walls, The residents of Melanchthon also find that the small dramas involving one another consume more of their remaining life energies than any larger dramas in the outside world. Even visitors are drawn in if they stay more than a day or so"p128James has crafted an intelligent mystery that weaves together an intricate web of emotion and secrets. At Haus im Wauld, a residential aged care facility, an elderly resident is found bludgeoned to death in his room. There is no shortage of motives or suspects in the case , the care home is a surprising maelstrom of intrigue. Someone is writing nasty notes to residents, two patients have died in the last month and now a man has been murdered. Carefully layering misdirection and clues, James sustains the suspense as Inspector Georg Buchner investigates.Inspector Georg Buchner is a laid back, traditional detective who uses the unusual technique of immersing himself in the community to find the killer. I felt Buchner could have been more active in his investigation but I also liked his thoughtful analysis of the residents as he pokes and prods at the characters, uncovering secrets and lies.Eleanor Fabian is a major character in the novel even though she is only ever peripherally involved in events surrounding the murder. Eleanor is reluctantly helping to settle her difficult mother in law into Haus im Wauld when the murder occurs. To distract herself from her unhappy marriage to Franz, an unpleasant man who is resentful towards both his mother and wife, she uses her connection to another resident to engage in some amateur sleuthing. The disintegration of her marriage as Eleanor and Franz considers the life they have left together makes for an interesting subplot. While the murder mystery drives the plot, it also serves as a catalyst to explore James' brilliantly crafted characters. James gives each of her characters the dignity of a realistic, well rounded and distinct personality. There are no sexless sweet old ladies knitting in an armchair, Frau Hagen is the enigmatic lover of the victim, Sister Barbara harbours a secret love for the unpleasant Sister Agatha and Frau Huber likes to ensure her patients are satisfied with her care. Similarly, the victim has a prescription for Viagra, Dr Hofer 's bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired and Director Shrumm has his own secrets he wants to keep. James doesn't shy away from issues that are usually glossed over where aging is concerned and this adds to the depth of the characters as well as the story.A Place To Die is a beautifully written mystery with an unexpected wit and honesty in the narrative and skilfully realised characters in a unique setting. This is a unique literary mystery that is a wonderful read.I am thrilled that Dorothy consented to my request for an interview and has offered to giveaway a copy of A Place To Die to one lucky reader. Make sure you come back to my blog tomorrow to meet her. ( )
  shelleyraec | May 9, 2011 |
Eleanor and Franz Fabian are visiting Franz's elderly mother at her nursing home in Vienna, Austria. While they are there, an unexpected bit of drama crops up: one of the residents is brutally murdered on Christmas Day. Inspector Georg Büchner arrives on the scene and methodically goes through all the evidence, unweaving the tangle of lies and contradictions and unrelated issues to find the culprit. I enjoyed the musings on aging, the (too brief) discussion of the post-WWII climate in Austria, and the vivid descriptions of the Vienna woods. I also found the subplot of Eleanor's marital problems and amateur sleuthing enhanced the main story rather than taking away from it. I'm not much of a murder mystery aficionado, and in fact don't generally seek them out, but this one was really good. I really liked Büchner (though I am not familiar with his namesake) and Eleanor, and I'd be curious to see more of Frau Dr. Lessing in the future. All in all, a fun read. I may even have to start following the Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery series. ( )
  melydia | Nov 16, 2010 |
A Place to Die is a well-written traditional mystery with mature characters in a unique setting. It is an interesting look into an assisted living facility divided between those who can still care for themselves and then the dreaded section where more assistance is needed. There are many characters living in this facility and their loves and friendships are portrayed in detail. It is the type of mystery that is well thought out, painstakingly described, and comes around full circle for the conclusion.

It was a little difficult for me to follow the characters at first until I got used to the terms Herr and Frau before the names. I thought two of the three main characters were rather unpleasant and their unhappy relationship grated on me. There were some unexpected sexual situations dropped into the story that were just too awkward to add to the story. Inspector Buchner, however, was wonderful, and I look forward to reading more with his character.

, ( )
  Tmtrvlr | Nov 13, 2010 |
This murder mystery takes place in an assisted living facility, where an increasing number of the elderly live out their days. In some ways, the horror of murder and death itself was muted as most of the "inmates", as James calls them, expect to die under the roof of the Haus im Wald (House in the Woods). In essence, death wasn't unusual; murder was. One act of violence throws a suspicious hue to all of the "natural deaths" and illnesses that follow, tempering the reader's interpretation of the events that unfold.

The sense of despair, late romances, and attempts to live and retain some sort of control reminded me greatly of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, though these characteristics of the aging were intensified and expanded upon in A Place to Die. Due to their isolation, they often forget about the outside world even as they themselves are forgotten, and this novel captures all of the emotions and struggles that come with that and the difficulty in retaining one's independence as age, infirmity, and strong-willed caretakers attempt to stay one's hand. At certain points, my frustration with the matrons of the facility was almost unbearable, perhaps because such highhanded figures do actually exist.

As the book shifts between three points of view, and about a dozen suspects are introduced, my initial fear was that of mass chaos as I attempt to remember who everyone is. Many of them begin as caricatures of themselves, stereotypes of the youthful old man, the crotchety gentleman, the nagging fishwife, and the long-suffering husband. What happens as the novel progresses is that we see depth and human emotions that give each a distinct persona in the mind's eye, thus making it much easier to keep track of the many goings-on over the course of a mere four days.

As a murder mystery, the novel succeeds in keeping the reader terribly confused. There were many points in the story where I pointed a finger at one potential murderer or another, especially as certain truths are brought to light, but then something else would occur to direct the blame elsewhere for another chapter or two. The final reveal was almost anticlimactic, but everything was explained in such a way that I still found it satisfying.

With little to no background in German, it took a while to get used to the insertion of certain phrases and the use of German titles ("Frau" and "Herr"). That in itself was fine. There were a handful of sentences in the book that are a bit awkwardly worded, and the same verbs for speech are often repeated, but as a whole, the text flows comfortably and allows the reader to become engrossed in the story without frequent verbal tics getting in the way. For instance, the overuse of the word "said" only came to my attention when I started deliberately looking for it.

With a background in pharmacy, my senses perked up with the mention of various prescription medications, and I was thankful that the doses were believable, and the risks discussed are accurate. My one bone of contention is that the names of generic products were capitalized. I imagine that something like that wouldn't really bother those outside of healthcare, however, and so I'm letting it go.

This novel does what a good murder mystery should: it keeps your head turning from one direction to another as you try to piece together the real story, only to fail. What sets it apart is that it also achieves what many murder mysteries don't: solid characterizations that humanize the various players and bring them to life. ( )
  hideandread | Oct 16, 2010 |
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