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It is Christmas in the alpine town of Furth am See and a six-year-old girl is playing ludo with her grandfather. The doorbell rings, and the old man goes to answer. The next time the girl sees him, he is lying with his skull broken, his face a red pulp against the white snow. From that time on, she does not speak a single word.
Raffael Horn, the psychiatrist engaged to treat the silent child, reluctantly becomes involved in solving the murder along with Detective Superintendent Ludwig Kovacs. Their parallel researches sweep through the town: a young mother who believes her new-born child is the devil; a Benedictine monk who uses his iPod to drown the voices in his head; a high-spending teenager who tortures cats. The psychological profile of this claustrophobic, winter-held town is not reassuring - which, if any, of its inhabitants was the brutal night-time slayer of the suffering girl's grandfather?
Austrian author Hochgatterer makes his U.S. debut with this remarkable thriller. Monsters appear to lurk in the forest-ringed fairy tale Austrian town of Furth am See, including whoever left the faceless corpse of Sebastian Wilfert in the snow for his little granddaughter, Katharina, to discover. Investigating the inexplicable Christmas-time crime officially falls to Det. Ludwig Kovacs and his vacation-depleted team, but potentially crucial evidence could come from quite a different quarter: child psychiatrist Raffael Horn, who is treating the traumatized (and now mute) Katharina. Skillfully mixing the observations of these two middle-aged kindred spirits experienced enough to have lost their illusions, but not their humanity with those of some of the more damaged townsfolk, Hochgatterer, himself a Vienna child psychiatrist, tells a suspenseful and shattering story with an elegance of expression that matches his exceptional insight into hearts and minds. Agency: Paul Zsolnay Verlag/Deuticke (Austria).