Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Their expectations are low: at best, boredom, at worst, run-of-the-mill family friction. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation.
Some residents and staff have surprising connections to the dead man, but who would have wanted to kill him? Inspector Bchner tracks down the murderer against a backdrop of Viennese history from the Nazi years to the present day. Witty, suspenseful, lyrical, this is a literary whodunit that will keep you guessing till the last page.
About The Author:
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.
by Dorothy James
Yesterday I read an article in the Huffington Post by Ann Brenoff with the provocative title: ”Stashing Granny in a Backyard Shed “ (https://tinyurl.com/7l5yr87). Today there are already pages of comments. It is a catchy title and the pitch is humorous: “ . . . as much as you love Mom, you really don’t want her under the same roof . . .” The “backyard shed” turns out to be a do-it-yourself construction kit for a $60,000 largely pre-fabricated house, not the worst idea to save your mother from “the assisted living place with the awful medicinal smell.” However the many comments, pro and contra, illustrate what a hot topic this is.
What caught my eye, and at first glance turned my stomach, was the phrase “stashing Granny.” Consider yourself for a moment if you can, not as a son or daughter with a parental or grandparental problem, but as a Granny or Grandpa. Do you want to be stashed?
This question is close to my heart because I have written and published a murder mystery called “A Place to Die,” set in a retirement home in Vienna. I did this in the first instance because it occurred to me that a retirement home was an ideal setting for a murder mystery – a large country house, a set of characters who weren’t going anywhere, who because they were by definition old had long lives behind them full of stories and secrets, lives that stretched back to the Vienna of the Nazi and post-Nazi period, a fascinating time to explore. I gave myself a fictional entrée into this world through an American baby-boomer-age couple visiting the husband’s mother who has been “stashed” in the home. I did not of course think of this word at the time, but it is true that the mother is not happy about being there and she is there because her family cannot cope any longer with her living alone.
The novel is not really about this quite common dilemma – it is a murder mystery and the plot centers on the detection of the crime. But in writing the novel, where the suspects as well as the victim are all old, some older than 90, I found myself delving into their lives, thoughts and feelings, seeing them not as items in the lives of others, people to be “stashed” somewhere out of the way, but people of pride and passion, happiness and misery, pettiness and greatness. People, in other words, just like the rest of us.