Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
He is the armed stranger who appears in the grounds of a family home and tells that family that they have seven days to move out, because “This is my house now.”
She is the now-sober-but-still-tarnished police sergeant who has to determine the level of threat.
Thanks to the tenaciousness and the not especially responsible solo efforts of Louise Boni, the motive – the wrongs of the past – is uncovered. Also the the exact nature of the planned revenge. But she’s not the one in control.
Her adversary is focussed, resourceful, capable of blending in with the landscape and, at times, vanishing into thin air. He is always one step ahead. Once his history is uncovered, his “talents” are understandable, They are born of necessity, the need for survival. For his story is tied to the tumultuous history of the Danube Swabians, who moved east from South-West Germany into Balkan territory during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hard times followed after its collapse; times which got more difficult with the defeat of the Third Reich and the rise of Tito and utterly impossible during the 1990s Balkans War.
Which is when that fleeting but fateful connection between Antun Lončar and Paul Niemann is made.
Louise Boni has to delve deeply into the complex history of the Danube Swabians to get to the truth. While I found it fascinating, I do admit that exposition was heavy for a crime novel. Also there were many references to the previous two books in the series (reviewed here and here) which means that I don’t advise anyone start with this. My final gripe is that Bottini, having got his main character sober and a lot less whingey, doesn’t appear able to write without a drunk in his pages. So it’s now the turn of Louise Boni’s friend, Jenny Böhm, to go through an alcoholic crisis. The novel would lose nothing by striking this subplot.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dance of Death, particularly the aforementioned history and its strong themes: the repercussions of past events, the consequences of ill-advised governmental policy and the realities of being without a safe place to call home. At one point Boni interviews another Danube Swabian who has been granted political asylum.
As she looked into Eisenstein’s old, watery eyes she thought that perhaps you couldn’t expect total objectivity from people like him, people who had been in camps such as Valpovo, who had been pursued and shot at, and who for years had been compelled to deny their identity.
And who had dreamed a dance of death.
Makes you think about the type of world we are sowing right now and the consequences we will reap (if we’re not doing so already).