The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder Farm, "With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel."
The first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The Murder Farm and Ice Cold.
The Murder Farm begins with a shock: a whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch; his put-upon devoutly religious wife; and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife's death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners' maidservant, Marie.
An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.
Stark as bare branches against a wintry sky, German author Schenkel's first novel stitches testimony from witnesses and other townsfolk into a suspenseful, immensely sad account of an entire family's slaughter at Tann d, their remote farm. Based on an unsolved case in 1922 Bavaria but transported to the mid-'50s, the Danners' horrific tale unfolds through the voices of neighbors, a classmate of doomed eight-year-old Marianne, and even an itinerant worker planning to rob Tann d. It quickly becomes clear that this odd, damaged clan including the ironfisted, lecherous, skinflint of a patriarch and his beaten-down wife, who turns a blind eye to his abuse of their daughter and other girls is a time bomb waiting to detonate. Compelling as a mystery, the story assumes a larger social dimension with the damning picture it paints of the survivors, smugly convinced of their own rectitude but unwilling to lift a finger even to save a child.