Readers from Canada may be specially interested in this novel because it takes place in the Austrian province of Styria, birthplace of the great Canadian industrialist Frank Stronach. The book refers both to Stronach and to Magna International’s plant in Graz. I only discovered the appendix related to Austrian German with a glossary of German terms about halfway through the book. Contrary to the title, it does not contain only German words that are used only or mainly in Austria, or words in the general vocabulary that are used in a special way in Austria. It also includes words in the general vocabulary, like Ausländer (foreigner), but excludes other, more obscure words, like Asylant (asylum seeker). At least, one word “Kriminaldiest”, is not in the glossary, and appears to be simply a typo, of which there are, by the way, many in the book. So the glossary fails as a guide to Austrian regionalisms used in the book, since one doesn’t really know if many of the terms are regional or not, and also fails to keep the reader without a knowledge of German from a pretty tough slog, since so many German words in the novel are not in the glossary. For a detective thriller, the pace is painfully slow, with endless filler. Worse than this, the book lacks the standard summation at the end of almost any detective story where Sherlock Holmes or in this case Inspector Kimmel tells us who did what to whom and why and how it became clear to him. In “Poacher’s Road”, Brady perhaps wanted to make the point that in real life crimes are not so easily resolved, but I wasn’t even clear who all the victims were at the end, never mind their killers, lost in blather about holidays in Rhodes or Cyprus.
Styria, where the novel takes place, borders on Slovenia, one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia, and the back cover makes reference to Croatians, so I was expecting a book that would deal with Southern Slavs much more than it did, and not in such a bigoted, racist way. One Styrian says: “Only German spoken here in Styria_none of that Slovenian nonsense or the like. Out with the Yugos.” This is not given any context. Just west of Styria is the province of Carinthia, which contains a substantial Slovenian minority; the Styrian speaker was drawing a contrast. Since Detective Kimmel has a Slovenian grandmother, it seemed strange that he would let this remark stand. The police chief Speckbauer restates the slander that Gavrilo Princip started the Great War, rather than Austro-Hungary with its unacceptable ultimatum to Serbia that followed on the heels of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. One would think that since the murders that set the novel in motion were of two members of a Croatian criminal gang, their leader, Dario Dravnic, would play a substantial role in the novel, but he doesn’t. We are told though that Dravnic had “done his share of that hellhound work they do to one another down there [in Croatia]”. It seems that Brady is an equal-opportunity Yugophobe. He doesn’t draw any distinctions between Croats, Serbs and Slovenes, but dislikes all South Slavs equally. These negative views are expressed in dialogue by the characters, but since the views expressed are so uniformly negative it is hard to believe they are not shared by the author.
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