Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Alphabet Murders by Lars Schütz

I am always pleased to get the chance to read new European writers, so I am delighted to be on the tour for this debut novel by Lars Schütz. My thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb:

A tense and chilling serial killer thriller for readers of Helen H Durrant and Angela Marsons.


When the body of a man is found brutally murdered in a wildlife park and tattooed with a letter A, criminal profilers Jan Grall and Rabea Wyler are thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Later, two more mutilated bodies are found, again with tattoos on their skin - B and C - and it becomes clear that Grall and Wyler are dealing with a brutal serial killer. One who won't stop until his set is complete.

When Grall's hotel room is marked with a Z and his girlfriend kidnapped, the race is on to find out who the killer is.

Before it's too late . . .

A pulsating new crime thriller that will have you gripped from start to finish.

The Alphabet Murders was published by Manilla on 22nd August 2019 and you can purchase it from Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US

My Review:

I love having the opportunity to discover new authors, and I'm actively trying to read more authors in translation, so Lars Schütz, a young German author, ticks both boxes.

Set in Germany, the story focuses on Jan Grall, a criminal profiler brought in to help solve a gruesome murder. His assistant Rabea accompanies him, and there is a huge mutual respect between them. The murder brings Jan back to his home town, which he left years earlier, and really doesn't want to come back to. When further bodies are discovered, also mutilated, it's clear that the killer is obsessed with the alphabet, and the letter 'Z' daubed outside Jan's hotel room suggests it might get personal...

Grall is a compelling central character. He's complex, serious, intense and has difficulty sleeping. He is often troubled, overwhelmed in some cases, at the crime scenes. I have recently been watching Hannibal on Netflix (strong stomach required!) and Jan brought to mind the troubled young profiler from that series. Both are deeply complex characters. And Grall carries heavy secrets, which are teased out as the story progresses.

Rabea Wyler has her secrets too. She's a really interesting character, and I enjoyed the relationship between her and Jan. The other person I want to mention is Chief Superintendent Stüter who I initially found to be a very unlikeable man, but my feelings towards him softened as the story progressed, although I didn't always agree with his actions.

This is a dark, claustrophobic thriller, very atmospheric. Set in winter, the barren landscapes and bad weather are characters  in themselves. Whilst told mainly from Grall's point of view, there are  chapters interspersed throughout from the viewpoint of a captured woman, and some of those are really quite hard to read. And they are certainly intense. The wounds on the murder victims are quite detailed in their descriptions, as is the treatment of the captured woman, making this more suited to those of us who are happy reading the darker side of crime fiction.

My review copy had a few formatting errors, which meant I was sometimes a little confused at scene changes. But I'm confident these will have been dealt with for publication.

Well paced, tense and atmospheric with a double whammy of an ending, this is a very strong debut and I look forward to seeing what Herr Schütz comes up with next.

The Author:

Lars Schütz was born in 1992. He works as a copywriter for a large advertising agency in Düsseldorf. The Alphabet Murders is his debut thriller.

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