Have you met Austrian author Bernhard Aichner? No? Do it now, so you can say you read him before he was huge in the US.
In the 300-odd pages of Aichner's first novel to be translated into English, a star is born. Aichner's prose is thoughtful, his characters vivid, and his storytelling raw.
Consider me obsessed.
I've read a ton of great thrillers recently, but allow me to tell you why this one trumps them all. If you've read any of my blog posts before, you'll know that I am a huge fan of Scandinavian crime fiction. I love the atmospheric, dark, gritty quality of Nordic noir. I will forever be comparing my thriller reads to the gold standard provided by Jo Nesbø, Camilla Läckberg, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and their peers.
Hailing from Austria, Bernhard Aichner's writing embodies many of the qualities that I have found so characteristic of Scandinavian authors, with his own unique twist. His writing is equally raw, his story equally atmospheric, but he injects his story with a level of thoughtfulness and delicacy that elevated this thriller above many of its potential competitors.
Aichner writes a protagonist who is pragmatic, vengeful, arguably psychopathic, damaged, and above all, totally sympathetic. Blum is an undertaker by trade, happily married to a police officer, mother to two sweet little girls. When her husband is murdered, Blum seeks revenge. As she digs into her husband's police work, she discovers a secret involving prominent Austrian men. Determined to avenge her husband, she dives into the abyss, pursuing the men whom she believes responsible for her husband's death. Blum is wonderfully complex, managing to believably embody grief, love, detachment, and hate all at once. Loving mother, grieving widow, undertaker, serial killer. What more could you possibly want from a main character?
The story plows ahead at break-neck speed, driven by Aichner's exacting prose. His writing is sparse, his word choice precise; he spares no gruesome detail, but the images of death that he provides the reader are not glorified. He presents morbid scenes through Blum's sterile, professional gaze. Death, to her, is business.
As I sit here writing this review, still shivering from the abrupt and shocking end to this story, I am totally confident that this will not be the last we hear of Bernhard Aichner. I will be anxiously awaiting the next Aichner book to be translated into English.
Bernhard Aichner's WOMAN OF THE DEAD releases August 25th, and comes highly recommended by this reader. Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster and Scribner for introducing me to a new favorite author!