With a title like “The Murder Farm” and a sinister cover, it was impossible for me to resist picking up the novel (or long novella) by Andrea Maria Schenkel that is being translated into English from German and published by Quercus. I could only hope that that contents of the book lived up to the promise of the title.
The countryside is slowly recovering from the ravages of World War II and people are slowly coming together and establishing routines all over again. One of these farms outside the village was the one owned by the Danners. The Danners were a bit of an outcast family for several reasons but the farm was getting by. No one suspected that the farm would soon be known as the Murder Farm.
What is the truth about what happened at the Danners’ farm? The truth will probably never be known. Whether it is the string of seedy workers that the Danners used to save on labor in the fields to the righteous wrath of an angry God, there is no lack of theories. After all, rumors abounded that the children on the farm were incestuously conceived so there were certainly dark forces at work on the farm. Even so, no one ever thought anything like this could happen in this quiet corner of the world and they would almost surely never believe what really happened that dark day.
I have to admit that I was a little surprised by this story. I went into the novel expecting a horror story and was surprised that this really was not the case at all. There are definitely some elements of horror in this tale that will appeal to fans of the genre but this is not a horror story in the classic sense. In spite of the title and the cover illustration, “The Murder Farm” is more of a mystery wrapped in heavy layers of social commentary on what it is to be evil both in reality and in the eyes of one’s neighbors. The Danners were outcast from society both through their own actions, or at least the actions of the patriarch, as well as the perception of the family by the other inhabitants of the village. Many considered the Danners to be evil with the shrewd and questionable business practices used on the farm as well as the incestuous relationship between the father and his daughter. The family was condemned by many based upon perception rather than on concrete proof of any wrongdoing.
“The Murder Farm” is a smart novel that is told through the differing perspectives of the villagers as well as some of the people involved in the tragedy. Schenkel does a very good job of capturing the human element of the tragedy and illustrating just how such a tragedy can affect even those who are not directly involved. The story is based on real events, although Schenkel takes the events and places them years after they actually happened, and Schenkel delves to the root of the tragedy to reach the human core. If you are looking for a straightforward tale of terror, then this book may not be what you are looking for. If you are looking for a smart story about a very real human tragedy, then do not hesitate to pick up this short yet moving book.
I would like to thank Quercus and Edelweiss for this review copy. “The Murder Farm” is available now.