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I Am Your Judge


I Am Your Judge

written by Nele Neuhaus, translated by Steven T. Murray

You should have Nele Neuhaus on your reading list of authors if you like your mystery novels deep and complex. Neuhaus is a household name in her native Germany, thanks to her series of police procedural novels set in the Taunus region (near Frankfurt) and featuring detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein.

As with many Nordic and European crime novels, the Taunus books, as they are known, have been published somewhat out of order in the United States through no fault of anyone in particular, least of all translator Steven T. Murray, who brings his usual excellent game to I AM YOUR JUDGE, the latest in the series to be published on these shores. Don’t let the occasional blip in continuity deter you from picking up this volume. It is a perfect mystery in which to immerse oneself over the course of a few evenings during this winter season.

"[T]he book is a smart puzzle that is carried through the occasional slow spot by Neuhaus’ first-rate slate of primary and secondary characters."

I AM YOUR JUDGE takes place over a very long couple of weeks that happen to include the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. A sharpshooter begins taking victims, seemingly at random. The first is an elderly lady who is doing nothing more disturbing than walking her dog. It is a horrific, apparently meaningless crime that immediately attracts the attention of the Taunus police. Kirchhoff is just about to start her vacation, which actually is her honeymoon. Unfortunately, those plans need to change; with the blessing of her extremely understanding husband, she participates in the investigation. Another victim, and yet another, quickly follow. At first they appear to be unconnected to each other, but some smart police work establishes that there is a common thread running through the victims, at least indirectly.

The police have some help in putting things together, courtesy of the killer, who begins sending cryptic notes about the murders to the police that are signed by “the Judge.” It takes a step or two, but Kirchhoff, Bodenstein and their colleagues soon discern that the killer is getting revenge --- not against the victims, who are innocents, but against relatives of the victims who, in one form or another, in concert or incidentally, participated in an act that ultimately was heinous. The Judge is settling accounts, and doing so quickly. There is an incredible amount of pressure placed on the police, given that they have no way of knowing who will be murdered next, or when. Even when a list of targets of the Judge’s wrath is found, it doesn’t help, given that each person on the list has a potential multitude of loved ones and family members.

Meanwhile, the Judge has a self-imposed deadline as well and fully expects to get caught, but not before revenge is completed. Kirchhoff and Bodenstein receive assistance from a couple of sources --- one official, one otherwise --- and are hindered by an unexpected source as well. By story’s end, a number of things have changed that no doubt will influence future plotlines in the series.

Please note that I AM YOUR JUDGE has an extremely complex plot, with a good number of characters. The mystery behind the story is first rate, but readers unfamiliar with German names may find things slow-moving in spots, particularly since a great deal of the evidence is talked through by the team, occasionally repetitively. Still, the book is a smart puzzle that is carried through the occasional slow spot by Neuhaus’ first-rate slate of primary and secondary characters. American readers still have much more to look forward to from Neuhaus and hopefully will see it soon.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 15, 2016

I Am Your Judge
written by Nele Neuhaus, translated by Steven T. Murray

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250116643
  • ISBN-13: 9781250116642