Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Place to Die by Dorothy James

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m sometimes disappointed in books when I agree to participate in a blog tour. In fact, on two occasions, after reading the book, I backed out. I didn’t have that problem at all with Dorothy James’ thoughtful, unusual mystery, A Place to Die. It’s the first in the Inspector Georg Büchner series. It’s a book that absorbs the reader into a world where neither the past nor the future are kind.

Eleanor and Franz Fabian traveled from New York to Vienna, Austria, to spend Christmas with Franz’ mother at the Haus im Wald, a retirement home. Neither liked Franz’ mother, but they arrived out of duty. Then, they were caught up in the drama of a homicide investigation when a man is found dead in his apartment, brutally struck down and murdered. Eleanor finds it intriguing, and fancies herself as Eleanor Marple, anything to escape the boredom of life with her husband. And, her questions do provide a few bits of information for the actual detective, Chefinspektor Georg Büchner.

A Place to Die is not a fast-paced mystery by any means. Instead, it is a study of a place, and the people who went there to finish their lives. Büchner and Eleanor, both middle-aged, find themselves studying their elders, wondering how they themselves will spend their final years. And, it’s the story of a particular group of people, Austrians who survived World War II, and their children, now middle-aged, unable to communicate with their parents.

That December, there were an unusual number of deaths in the Haus im Wald. Since one of them was murder, Büchner started to look at a few of the other deaths and incidents involving people in their seventies, and even nineties. And, he discovers that so many of the residents and staff members in the home have skeletons they’ve kept hidden in their closets. And, someone has been sneaking hints about those skeletons, nasty little hints left where residents will find them. Someone is stirring up trouble in the Haus im Wald.

The Haus in Wald sucked Büchner and Eleanor Fabian in. They were caught up in the drama, the secret histories of the residents, and the search for a killer. The residents are so representative of society, with pettiness and secrets. Büchner finds a retired psychiatrist living there, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who understands human nature. Those conversations with Dr. Lessing and the Inspector are absorbing, and enlightening.

Dorothy James’ A Place to Die is a mystery involving a murder, and Inspector Georg Büchner finds the killer after he spends a few days in residence at the home. But, in so many ways, A Place to Die remains a mystery, a story of our own aging, and our own secrets. It’s quiet, thoughtful, and a powerful book.

Dorothy James’ website is

“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.”

A Place to Die by Dorothy James. Xlibris ©2011. ISBN 9781450082709 (hardcover), 436p.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received this book to participate in the blog tour.


Liz said...

Another new-to-me author for the TBR mountain.

Anonymous said...

I think this one sounds good, Lesa. I like the idea of the retirement home and secrets. The Kindle version is quite reasonably priced. :-)

Tribute Books said...

Lesa, I'm always relieved to hear when a book received from a blog tour doesn't disappoint. Thanks again for your well-written review of Dorothy's work.

Liz and Kay, thanks for adding "A Place to Die" to your to-read lists. I know Dorothy will be thrilled.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Nicole. And, thank you, Liz and Kay. I hope you enjoy it!

Dorothy James said...

Lesa, thank you so much for this thoughtful review. You have seen into the heart of the book! And you have expressed so well exactly what I was trying to do in it. I'm looking forward to following your blog in future.
And thanks also to Liz and Kay for immediate positive response. I hope you enjoy the book too!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Dorothy. I was very impressed by this story, so it was a pleasure to share it. Thank you for stopping by today. I'm glad I "got" your book. Thank you.

Nan said...

I think this sounds very interesting. I'm not aware of many mysteries set in Germany or Austria.

Lesa said...

There are a few series set in Germany, Nan. Rebecca Cantrell and Philip Kerr both have series that begin there in the 1930s. There are few more. Stop You're Killing Me lists several set in Austria, but I'm not familiar with them.

Dorothy James said...

Thanks, Nan, hope you'll get to read the book. One of the best writers of Viennese mysteries is, in my opinion, Frank Tallis, Englishman, psychologist. Very different from mine, but I like them a lot. Set in Vienna in the early years of the 2oth Century -- Freud crops up as a character. Definitely worth reading!

Tribute Books said...

Lesa (and everyone who commented above) - I just wanted to stop by again and say thanks for your support of Dorothy's book.