by Nele Neuhaus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reviewed for Amazon under the Amazon Vine Voice Program
With Snow White Must Die (Minotaur Books 2013), Nele Neuhaus shows the reading world that he can spin a tale steeped in small town politics, local culture, European geography, and that places the reader at the epicenter of a grisly mystery. Does that sound easy? It’s not, proven by how many failed authors litter the literary highway. If Neuhaus keeps writing like this, she won’t have to worry about failing.
This is the tale of a double murder where a high school boy is found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. While he served his time, the small town that had nurtured and protected him for twenty years drove his parents out of business and treated them as pariah–despite that he never confessed to the crime, didn’t remember doing it, and the bodies were never found. The story begins with his return when it becomes clear someone is not only unhappy he is back and afraid of the truths that might still come out. This mystery is a rich interweaving of setting and story. The taste and scent of European village life permeates everything and the characters provide a window on a world most of us will never experience.
Although the book nicely wraps readers into the drama of a high school wonder boy who falls from grace, is convicted of murder, and returns home to try to restart his life after paying his societal dues, there were a few bumps along the way:
- Despite the sensational name, it doesn’t encapsulate the story. Yes, there is a character nicknamed ‘Snow White’, but she’s dead. No one runs through the plot figuring out how to kill her. In fact, the story unravels why she did die. Since publishers name novels, I wonder what Neuhaus originally called this one–Why Did Snow White Die? or Tobias Must Die. Granted, neither of those has the sensationalism of the current title.
- I found it hard to believe Tobias would have a second black out just in time for another girl to disappear. When it happened, I figured someone was causing him to black out, but no, it was coincidence. Hmm…
- the last 25% of the story bogs down in drama that doesn’t move the plot forward. I ended up skimming chunks of the late chapters without missing anything. What Neuhaus thought to be tension-building was actually pace-stalling.
- the book never ended. Every time it reached a natural conclusion, something else popped up.
- Why is it set four years in the past? Is this intended for some reason that isn’t explained or did it take four years to get the book from the author’s computer to my early-reader hands? If the latter, that’s frightening for would-be writers and one measure why publishers have difficulty competing with Indies.
These are likely new author issues. What can’t be argued is that Neuhaus is a talented, expressive writer who knows how to tell a story and is the reason I gave it four stars. I look forward to more of her work.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.