European crime fiction in the crosshairs
n°4 February-March-april 2006


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The Silent Forest
(Der Wald ist Schweigen)

Gisa Klönne

Berlin (Editions Ullstein) • 2005 368 pages

Alexander Ruoff
Translation: Steve Novak


The French editors of ’Europolar were pointedly asking if, in the case of German crime novels, the prejudice of their futility because of low criticism of their society, held to investigation (except for a few exceptions). So, I went to my favorite crime fiction bookstore, Hamnett, and bought one of the new arivals, a book whose author I was unfamiliar with and whose cover was appealing: The Silent Forest (Der Wald ist Schweigen) by Gisa Klönne.

In this novel are three very different female characters. They investigate the discovery of the body of an unknown, pecked at by crows, found by a mushroom hunting old couple in a hunting stand of the Bergisch Land forest. There is Judith Krieger, the heavy smoking Commisioner, for ever exhausted and whose fighting spirit only truly awakens when, due to her own mistake, her career is finally put in geopardy by her detested young competitor. There are also Diana Westermann, the mysterious forest ranger who just came back from a job in Africa who has to stand up for women’s role in a male dominated profession and there is Laura, the introverted young lady who was stuck in an Ashram in this forest by her self-rightous bourgeois parents, to pratice yoga and meditation as means to forget her much older lover. Then, another cadaver is discovered in the crater left by the explosion of a left over bomb from WW2, all this happening next to what the author ironically calls the Esoteric Institute.

And all this is in fact well captivating and well written. The structure also is spotless. It is laid out as a close-room story despite the fact that the action is outdoors, and borrowing heavily from the classic whodunnit scheme with unpredictable rebounds so that the reader alway looks at the wrong suspect. This demonstrates that Gisa Klönne knows her job well. And we expected that from her since after all she participates to conferences where she teaches writing. But here we would look in vain for the rolliking joie-de-vivre, the taste for humor and burlesque as described so well by Jean Marc Laherrère in his two strong recommendations to a German editor, in the present issue of Europolar, of two crime novels, one French (Hannelore Caye’s Toiles de maître) and one Vietnamese (Tran-Nhut: L’esprit de la renarde).

Let us not even speak here about any type of reflexion upon society or the contextual environment, in short about any element that would have pushed beyond the quaint handcrafted part played by the fascinating plot and the interesting characters, and that would have muted or eliminated the futility prejudice. When you read this crime story you get inevitably in front of your eyes the film adaptation as it will happen on German television as seen many times before : even if there is some action it will always retain a rough and laborious tinge and if someone makes a joke, it will be only as counterpoint to a type of morosity that, disguised as gravity, is only there to hide that dramas thus laid out are nothing but the boring display of a lonely world spinning on itself.

But nonetheles The Silent Forest (Der Wald ist Schweigen) is a good story with noticable characters and an exiting plot and is a fun read. Unfortunately nothing more.


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