Inspector Hunkeler is summoned back to Basel from his New Year holiday to unravel a gruesome killing in a community garden on the city’s outskirts. An old man has been shot in the head and found in his garden shed hanging from a butcher’s hook.
Hunkeler must deal not only with the quarrelsome tenants of the garden but with the challenges of investigating a murder that has taken place outside his jurisdiction, across the French border in Alsace. The clues lead to the Emmental in Berne, and then to Alsace where wounds from the Second World War have never healed.
Series: The third in the Inspector Hunkeler series published in English. The first was The Basel Killings published by Bitter Lemon in 2021, winner of the Friedrich Glauser Prize, Germany’s most prestigious crime fiction award. The second was Silver Pebbles, a beautifully crafted thriller about stolen diamonds, drug couriers and people accidentally caught in a vortex of crime.
Character-driven: Hunkeler is close to retirement age, gruff, intuitive, and endowed with a deep sense of psychology and a horror of social injustice. “Reminiscent of Wallander and Rebus, a little jaded, a bit rebellious and always independent with a strong intuition.” said the Financial Times. It feels like Hunkeler investigates mostly by spending time in the bars and inns of his beloved city and neighbouring Alsace where he shares a small farmhouse with his long-suffering ‘girlfriend’ Hedwig.
Sense of place: It is a harsh winter with unusually heavy snowfall and persistent sub-zero temperatures. The city of Basel and neighbouring Alsace are evoked with great love by Schneider, who in real life lives on the same street and frequents the same bars and restaurants as Inspector Hunkeler.
As an outsider, Hunkeler is alive to class differences and social milieux. The contrast between the xenophobia of the local police and the Swiss press and the desperate, often lonely, world of Balkan and other immigrants informs the story.