A killer/rapist is on the loose in late-1930s Munich, which even without him is not a good time or place for an attractive young woman from a distant village to come looking for work.
The woman, Kathie, is hoping to get a job as a maid for a wealthy family, but a friend encourages her to look for a man who can buy her nice things instead. Needing a place to stay—in these tough times, the most anyone can offer is a couch, and even that is frequently taken—she ends up sleeping in a room above a bar with a blond stranger. Thus begins her life of prostitution—a brief life, as it turns out. Through the narratives of other victims, court testimonies, and interrogations of the killer (all presented in different typefaces), the reader is transported to a grim, affectless place. Even bicycle rides down winding lanes and trips to the countryside are joyless activities. The rapist, a Nazi whose increasingly gruesome acts will be erased from public record by image-sensitive authorities, is frighteningly bland; except when he's cutting up dead bodies, it's as if he's already been erased himself. German author Schenkel, whose first novel, The Murder Farm, earned comparisons to In Cold Blood, draws readers in slowly with her extremely dispassionate style. As the oddities escalate—one scene has Kathie move robotically from one bed to another and back to service two men—the book acquires a numbing power. Those who believe fiction needs sympathetic characters to involve the reader will meet their match in Schenkel.
Schenkel's second novel, a No. 1 seller in Germany, takes leave from mainstream crime fiction with its merciless depiction of a rapist killer and his victims.