I am Your Judge, the latest Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein novel from internationally bestselling author Nele Neuhaus, is tightly plotted, and delivers surprise twists at every turn with a story that is ripped from the headlines.
Police Detective Pia Kirchhoff is about to leave on her long-delayed honeymoon when she receives a phone call from police headquarters: An elderly woman has been shot and killed while walking her dog. Neither her grieving daughter nor any of her acquaintances have an explanation for the horrifying murder. Ingeborg Rohlehder was well-liked and a generous, loving woman.
A short while later, another murder is committed and the modus operandi is eerily similar — a woman is executed by a precisely aimed bullet to the head that smashes through her kitchen window while she is baking cookies . . . and in both cases the same weapon fired the shot from a distance only a trained sniper could manage. Two more murders follow in short order. None of the victims had enemies and no one knows why they were singled out.
As fear of the Taunus Sniper grows among the local residents, the pressure rises on Detective Kirchhoff. She and her partner, Oliver von Bodenstein, search feverishly for a suspect who appears to murder at will, but soon realize that “The Judge,” as the sniper calls himself, seems to have a mission—a mission that has not reached its conclusion yet. As the investigation progresses, the police officers uncover a human tragedy that will shake them to the core.
German author Neuhaus combines an intense hunt for a serial killer with characters that readers will care about in her superior fourth mystery to be published in the U.S. featuring German detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein, of the Hofheim criminal police (after 2014's Bad Wolf). Pia's plans for a getaway with her new husband are thwarted when a murderer shoots elderly Ingeborg Rohleder with a high-powered rifle while the woman is walking her dog. Later, the sniper shoots 64-year-old Margarethe Rudolf in her kitchen in front of her granddaughter. The working theory that these are random shootings comes under question when the killer sends an obituary for the first victim to the police. Signed "the Judge," the note states that Ingeborg "had to die" because her daughter denied someone assistance and was thus an "accessory to negligent manslaughter." Sections told from the killer's vantage point ratchet up the suspense as he narrows in on his next target. Neuhaus does a superb job of portraying the search for a link between the dead women, and her willingness to let her characters make mistakes gives the plot even more plausibility.