Authors: Wolf Haas
Brenner and God
is one of the cleverest—and most thoroughly enjoyable—mysteries that I’ve read in a long time. Wolf Haas is the real deal, and his arrival on the American book scene is long overdue.”
CARL HIAASEN, AUTHOR OF
“A meticulously plotted, dark, and often very funny ride.”
Brenner and God
is a humdinger … a sockdollager of an action yarn, revealed via the smart-ass, self-effacing narrative voice that’s a sort of trademark of author Wolf Haas.”
—THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE
“[A] superb translation of one of Austria’s finest crime novels … Haas never loses the thread of investigation, even as he introduces off-beat characters and a very complex plot … This is the first of the Brenner novels in English. We can only hope for more, soon.”
—THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“Even as Haas darkens the mood of this sly and entertaining novel, he maintains its sardonically irreverent tone.”
—THE BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW
“A pacey and gripping read.”
“A gleaming gem of a novel.”
“[From] the insanely talented and clever Wolf Haas … A satirical and cynical criticism of Austrian and German society is very much a part of the plot, just as Chandler, Hammett and the other great American hard-boiled writers had an indictment of our society at heart.”
—THE DIRTY LOWDOWN
“Simon Brenner has been brilliantly brought to life by Mr. Haas’ subtle yet masterful prose, with just the right balance of dark humor … Mr. Haas may not yet be a household name, this side of the Atlantic, but all that is about to change.”
—NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
“This quirkily funny kidnapping caper marks the first appearance in English of underdog sleuth Simon Brenner … Austrian author Haas brings a wry sense of humor … American readers will look forward to seeing more of Herr Simon.”
“One of Germany’s most loved thriller writers: he’s celebrated by the literary critics and venerated by the readers.”
“This is great art, great fun.”
THE BONE MAN
“Darkly comic … American mystery fans should enjoy Haas’s quirky, digressive storytelling style.”
“It’s a novel that leaves you laughing even as you work to solve the mystery.”
—THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“A brilliant book … Already among the greats of mystery fiction.”
“The most original figure here is the narrator, who hovers above the action with matter-of-fact detachment, ever alert for moments when he can swoop down and set you straight about what’s going on or change the subject entirely.”
was born in 1960 in the Austrian province of Salzburg. He is the author of seven books in the bestselling Brenner mystery series, three of which have been adapted into major German-language films by director Wolfgang Murnberger. Among other prizes, the books in the series have been awarded the German Thriller Prize and the 2004 Literature Prize from the city of Vienna. Haas lives in Vienna.
is the translator of the Art of the Novella series edition of Heinrich von Kleist’s
, as well Wolf Haas’
Brenner and God
The Bone Man
ALSO BY WOLF HAAS
Brenner and God
The Bone Man
MELVILLE INTERNATIONAL CRIME
First published in Germany as
Auferstehung der Toten
Copyright © 1996 by Rowohlt Taschenbuch
Verlag GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg
Translation copyright © 2013 by Annie Janusch
First Melville House Printing: January 2014
Melville House Publishing
145 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
8 Blackstock Mews
London N4 2BT
A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.
The translation of this book was supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture.
As far as America goes, Zell’s a tiny speck. Middle of Europe somewhere. As far as Pinzgau’s concerned, though, Zell’s the capital of Pinzgau. Ten thousand inhabitants, thirty mountains over 3,000 meters high, fifty-eight ski lifts, one lake. And believe it or not. Last December, two Americans were killed in Zell. But for now, get a load of this.
After the war, it was the skiing that brought prosperity to Zell. Suddenly, snowfall meant money on the ground. But it goes without saying: you can’t be too lazy to bend down and pick it up.
Take the lift operators, for instance. All day long they’ve got to watch out that nobody falls out of the lift. Day in, day out, thousands of skiers swooshing right past them. Nobody ever falls out of the lift usually, but if it should happen, not the end of the world, either. Lift operator’s just got to go over to the emergency brake and turn the lift off. And no easy job. Looks easy, but it’s not as easy as it looks. On account of the cold. Doesn’t matter how good a thermal suit St. Nick brings you. Won’t do you any good in the long run. That’s why, throughout the land, you can recognize lift
operators by their frostbit red noses. Enough to make you think, Those aren’t lift operators at all, but secret clowns, making fun of the whole charade that’s got them chasing all over the place in every kind of weather.
One lift operator, though, the people tell stories about him, Alois the Lift Operator, or Alois the Lift for short, how he used to sometimes let the local kids through for free. Well, on the morning of December twenty-second, after the longest night of the year, there was something else altogether that had him cursing. Not the crap-ass weather, even though the weather was crap-ass awful.
He rode in like he always did with Wörgötter in his snowcat to the Panorama Lift station in the valley. Wörgötter let him off, and he hopped out into the dawn and went straight to the lift cabin, and, like he did every morning, turned the radiator on first and then the radio.
And just like every morning, one of them little punks from the night before had left it dialed to Ö3, and of course, all Alois the Lift had to say about that was: “Ghetto music.” So, there he is, turning the dial like he does every morning, nice and slowly to the left, because it was an old radio. A person who can turn a dial slower than Alois, well, not easy to find. You’d have thought he was defusing a bomb. And, on top of it all, Alois the Lift’s got his little finger jutting out like some withered twig. On account of him cutting it with a circular saw when he was a kid.
So, he finally gets his station in. Where it’s always the old times all the time. And good music. Half an hour ago,
Alois the Lift, sound asleep still. Now, he’s happy just to be listening along over a Thermos of coffee to these old stories.
Take the snow, for instance. Time and again they dig up that story about how twenty or even just a few years ago, there used to be way more snow. Well, needless to say, Alois the Lift knows best: not a word of it true.
It was just the liftees and the innkeepers that started the rumor because, ordinarily, it was only every other or every third winter that there was snow during the Christmas holidays. And needless to say, the skiers, not exactly satisfied—saving up their money all year long up north in the Ruhr Valley just to sit around their hotel rooms.
Or else just to go swooshing over slopes that’ve only got a light dusting on them and ruining their new gear on their first day out. The gastronomes sure liked dishing up that story about the climate change. Because that’s how people are—they cope much easier with some great calamity like the destruction of the earth than they do a minor misfortune like the destruction of their new skis.
And these days when you’re a tourist someplace, you’re just happy if a local talks to you. That’s why every waiter and gas station attendant has got away with dishing up this story since, well, always, to the German and Dutch tourists, about how everything, but especially the snow, used to be way better. And they’re just biding their time till January, because it’ll definitely snow in January, so much that you won’t even be able to ski on account of the avalanches.
But, this December, everything was different. There was
so much snow that Alois the Lift could barely see out of the operator’s cabin where he’d just took a sip of Thermos-coffee. On the radio somebody was talking about the last time there was this much snow. Believe it or not: before the war.
As Alois the Lift walks out of the cabin—because he’s got to get the chairlift going on the daily test run—he can still see Wörgötter’s snowcat, barely making a dent in the snow. “White gold,” they’d be saying in Zell. But Alois the Lift couldn’t hear anything just then besides the noise from the snowcat and the chairlift starting up. He was two lifts away from the village—he couldn’t even see the village, because he couldn’t even see twenty meters in front of him in this heavy snowfall.
Alois the Lift couldn’t see the snowcat anymore now, either, but then Wörgötter switched all eight of its lights on, and needless to say. All at once, all the slopes lit up, bright as day on this dark, dark morning after the longest night of the year.
The parcel that was slowly approaching on one of the lift seats, though. Alois the Lift couldn’t fully make it out yet. Naturally he wondered how there could even be something on the seat. Every evening the lift goes on a quality-control run so that nothing gets left behind on a seat. It was the oldest chairlift in Zell, still a one-seater—didn’t even have a double. But, for as long as Alois the Lift could remember—and he’d been working the lift the second-longest of anybody—there’d never been anything left on a seat in the morning.
“Those idiots!” Alois the Lift muttered, and he was
getting cold in the gusts of snow now, because every year, the parkas got better, but the wind just stang all the more.
“Those idiots didn’t do a control run yesterday!”
Those idiots would be the same young liftees who were always switching the radio over to the “ghetto music.” And as the massive parcel got closer, Alois the Lift’s thoughts just turned darker and darker.
He had very good eyes, because he always protected them with those Carrera sunglasses that St. Nick had brought him some years ago. But the bundle was covered in such a thick coat of snow that he still couldn’t make out with any certainty what it was. Even though it was only a few seats away from the station. Or at least that’s how he told it, Alois the Lift, that night at the Rainerwirt.