Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: A Place to Die by Dorothy James

A uniquely set literary mystery awaits you in A Place to Die by Dorothy James.

Eleanor and Franz Fabian travel from New York to the Vienna Woods to spend time with Franz's mother at the retirement home. While visiting on Boxing Day, they hear of the tragic death of Herr Hans Graf, a popular resident of Haus im Wald. They soon find themselves thrust into the middle of a homicide investigation.

Inspector Georg Büchner discovers surprising connections between Herr Graf and many of the residents and staff of Haus im Wald, and reunites with a former comrade who has surprisingly turned to a religious order. Are his past and the murder related?

When I was first asked to review A Place to Die, I was immediately drawn to its unique setting. James immerses the reader in details that make you feel like you are traveling right along with Büchner as he works to solve the crime.

This is not your typical mystery novel. It's literary in nature, so the story develops more slowly, each chapter is opened with an introduction, and the pace is much more leisurely than one would expect from a murder mystery. One is rewarded, however, with getting to know the characters well. There are several, many of them quirky, which made the story even more interesting.

A Place to Die is titled as "An Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery," but since Büchner shares so much of the spotlight with the Fabians it didn't feel that way. Eleanor plays amateur sleuth throughout the book. It seems like James combined elements of a detective novel with that of a cozy mystery. The story unfolds through the points of view of Büchner and the Fabians, which allowed for more information to be shared than if the author had relied on Büchner's sole point of view, but it's like Eleanor takes over. Now, she's crucial to the plot:  not only is she the daughter-in-law of one of the residents--which is why she is at Haus im Wald in the first place--but she reconnects with one of her friends who is also a resident. I felt her role as amateur sleuth, however, was distracting to the reader, and shifted the focus away from Büchner.

For the most part I was satisfied with how the story concluded, but there were a couple of things left unresolved. Perhaps the reader is supposed to draw her own conclusions based upon what was or wasn't revealed, but in my opinion there shouldn't be any questions after you turn the last page.

If you're into literary stories and enjoy mysteries, you might want to give this one a try. It has received several 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Title:  A Place to Die-An Inspector Georg Büchner Mystery
Author: Dorothy James
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation

Price: $34.99
ISBN: 9781450082709
Pages: 436
Release: April 21, 2010
Price: $23.99
ISBN: 9781450082693
Pages: 436
Release: April 21, 2010

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iBookstore buy link - $9.99

Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has travelled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector Büchner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.

Dorothy James' web site:

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I received a free e-copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

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Harvee said...

I have a guest post on my blog by the author who discusses her setting for the book, the Vienna Woods. The book sounds great too!

Tribute Books said...

Cheryl, thanks again for taking the time to review Dorothy's book. I know you enjoy a good mystery, and I'm glad the literary feel of Dorothy's writing made you feel even closer to the characters involved.

Dorothy James said...

Thank you very much, Cheryl, for hosting this stop on the tour, and for your thoughtful review, which, in the best way, will help readers decide if the book is for them. And thanks also to Harvee!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone. I'm glad I got a chance to host this book.