World Crime Atlas: the retirement project to read a crime novel set in every country featured in The Times atlas of the world.
Rain Girl, by Gabi Kreslehner
The plot: A young woman’s body is found on the A9 autobahn near Munich. She has been fatally injured in a collision with a car, but police quickly discover signs that she had been attacked before running into the road and the path of the car that knocked her down. Finding out who attacked her uncovers the woman’s troubled past, and leads to a devastating final revelation.
Where and when: Very difficult to say. The author lives in her hometown of Ottensheim, on the shores of the Danube, so the town in the novel may be based on it.
The Detectives: Inspector Franza Oberwieser and her deputy, Detective Feliz Herz.
Sense of Place: I really struggled to identify any. At times I wondered if the story was set in Austria or Germany. While there are several mentions of the Danube, the river hardly permeates the novel, and there are almost as many references to the autobahns and to Berlin. Sense of place may not depend on passages describing how somewhere looks, but it does help. There are few examples in this book. One rare example: “They took the next exit and followed a country road past cornfields swaying in the wind like yellow waves in a yellow ocean.” But I struggled to get a fix on the book’s location: when I read “In a town like this the fog crept up from the Danube, covering everything” my reaction was think ‘But what is this town actually like?’
Worth reading? Don’t be put off by the above. This project is specifically looking at the sense of place in crime novels; it may have been a poor choice in this context, but there is much else to enjoy. Inspector Oberwieser has the usual collection of personal and professional problems; Kreslehner is writing a series of books about her.