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THE BONE MAN by Wolf Haas


by Wolf Haas ; translated by Annie Janusch

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61219-169-0
Publisher: Melville House

Too many bones in the grinder make for a weird, wild second case for Austrian cop-turned–private eye Simon Brenner (Brenner and God, 2009).

Friedrich Löschenkohl’s family restaurant in Klöch is famous throughout Styria for its crispy, oversized servings of fried chicken. So, of course, it generates thousands of pounds of bones a week. But now, someone’s been adding human bones to the mix, and Löschenkohl’s daughter-in-law Angelika wants Brenner to find out who. The only trouble is that Angelika’s gone missing by the time Brenner arrives. Nor is she the only one. East Styrian sculptor Gottfried Horvath has already vanished. They’ll be followed by Goran Milovanovic, the Yugoslavian goalie of the Klöch soccer club, whose day job includes feeding the bone grinder at Löschenkohl’s; Jacky Trummer, the chatty son of Löschenkohl’s bathroom attendant; and a rival soccer player named Ortovic whose decapitated head turns up in a bag of soccer balls. So Brenner really might wonder whose bones those are in the grinder. Instead, however, he wonders about the weather, his ex-girlfriend, the time years ago when he cuckolded the head of the Vienna Vice Squad, and whether it’s all right to eat fried chicken with his fingers. Revelations of dark doings eventually arrive but so quickly after so much studied inaction that they have a surrealistic air, and you can see why Brenner claims he was able to tie up the loose ends only due to “shock-power” after a villain with a meat cleaver severs his pinkie.

Appealing as Brenner is, the most original figure here is the narrator, who hovers above the action with matter-of-fact detachment, ever alert for moments when he can swoop down and set you straight about what’s going on or change the subject entirely.