Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review of "The Scholl Case: The Deadly End of a Marriage" by Anja Reich-Osang

The Scholl Case

Author: Anja Reich-Osang
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Pages: 208

In December 2011, a corpse was found in a forested area near Ludwigsfelde, a tiny and quiet village south of Berlin, Germany. The body was hidden between pine trees and covered with leaves. The victim was Brigitte Scholl, the 67-year-old wife of Ludwigsfelde’s former mayor. Three weeks later, the police arrested and charged the victim’s husband Heinrich Scholl with murder. On the surface, the Scholls appeared to be happy, but behind closed doors there were many secrets.

In 2012, Heinrich Scholl was found guilty of his wife’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. Yet to friends and neighbors this was a shock. How could this soft spoken and well respected man have committed such a heinous act? He had been one of the most successful mayors of East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Award winning author and journalist Anja Reich-Osang followed the trial and was given unprecedented access to Heinrich Scholl. In her new book, The Scholl Case: The Deadly End of a Marriage, she attempts to delve into the minds of the Scholls.

Reich-Osang writes, “Heinrich Scholl had assembled trucks in Ludwigsfelde automobile works and made chairs for East Germany’s state circus. When the wall fell, he became involved in local politics, helping to found social democracy in Brandenburg, and was soon one of the most successful politicians of the new federal states. Like the country, he reinvented himself. His life seemed symbolic . . . But what price did he pay for his ascent? What temptations did he withstand . . . ?” And what had happened to his marriage in the almost twenty years in which he transformed Ludwigsfelde into a flourishing place of business?”

The Scholl Case is a terribly sad story that outlines the anguishes of an unhappy marriage. The history of their 40-plus year marriage is told as bluntly as possible, partly because the author is intent on uncovering the facts. She peels back the layers of deception covering the couple’s seemingly normal life and reveals not merely who committed the crime, but the more intriguing question of why the crime was committed.

But there’s a paradox at the center of The Scholl Case. The author seems to respond to the story with disappointment, and her lackluster dramatization of the details of the murder seems to generate only a sense of wonder from the author. Because she is not able to articulate her own feelings about the case, the story takes on an air of diluted lameness.

In the end, The Scholl Case is a sordid tale of sex, lies, politics, and a marriage in which nothing was as it appeared. It is most certainly not a typical true crime book and whether or not it can be truly labeled as nonfiction is debatable. This could be due to its translation; it is more a mixture between historical fiction and crime thriller, although the main focus is on the history of both the mayor and his wife rather than the murder case. Reich-Osang makes no judgment on his guilt or innocence and this leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions.

Despite these minor flaws The Scholl Case is well written and a worthwhile read. It will most certainly satisfy those readers who enjoy the combination of the psychology of marriage and true crime.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review of "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" by Amanda Quick

Anna Harris is the private secretary to wealthy New York socialite, Helen Spencer and for the past year has lived a fast paced life filled with glitter and glamour. This lifestyle is horrifyingly shattered when she stumbles upon the body of her boss, who has been brutally stabbed to death.

“There was blood everywhere in the elegant, white-on-white boudoir. It soaked the dead women’s silver satin evening gown and the carpet beneath her body.”

A menacing warning, “Run,” has been written with victim’s own blood on the wall, and in that moment she knows that the idyllic life she has been living was a deception. Fleeing the scene, she drives across country to Los Angeles, where she attempts to find peace and security. She changes her name to Irene Glasson, which she thinks has a “Hollywood ring to it” and accepts a position as a cub reporter at Whispers, a small tabloid newspaper.

Her quiet life is shattered when murder follows her west. A hot lead about a lured affair between up-and-coming actor, Nick Tremayne and starlet Gloria Maitland takes Irene to the lavish and private Burning Cove Hotel, 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Arriving for the midnight appointment, Irene finds her source, Gloria Maitland, dead at the bottom of a pool. Once again she finds herself fleeing the scene of a murder, but this time Irene is determined to prove the drowning was not an accident. She partners with Oliver Ward, formerly a famous magician and now the mysterious owner of the hotel to discover why this woman may have been silenced. Seeking the truth, they both soon learn that the glamorous paradise hides dark and dangerous secrets.
“And that past, always just out of sight, could drag them both down.”

Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes as Jayne Castle), has written more than 50 New York Times bestselling novels. In her newest release, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Quick transports readers back to the golden age of Hollywood and through clever plot twists unmasks the gritty realities that hide behind tinsel town’s glitzy facades.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a solid murder mystery, although not one of Quick’s best efforts. It is ripe with details and dialogue. Its short chapters accelerate the story forward at breakneck speed. Main protagonists, Irene and Oliver, are amiable but aren’t easy to attach to. Both are complex characters, so it takes some time to get to know each of them. There are several confusing storylines and trying to keep track of it all is not always easy. Some of the villains you know right away and some are surprising.

Nonetheless, The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a fun, spunky, read that contains plenty of simmering sexual chemistry, which will most definitely satiate the most ardent fans of Amanda Quick. Although it’s a little bit anti-climactic once it’s over, lovers of romantic historical murder mysteries will enjoy the suspense, characters, and atmosphere of old Hollywood.