Jenny Mayhew - A Wolf in Hindelheim
Former screenwriter Mayhew's debut novel is a strong, atmospheric story set in pre-WWII Germany
War hangs heavy over the small German mountain community of Hindelheim in Jenny Mayhew’s unusual crime novel, set in 1926. WWI has left local constable Hildebrandt crippled and estranged from his adult son, while the war which we know is still to come is prefigured in the bureaucracy and prejudices which surround his investigation into a baby’s death.
Hindelheim is far from any grand political affairs, but their effects play out in microcosm, particularly when a young Jewish man becomes a suspect. As old folktales and primitive beliefs meld with more modern ambitions, the community is stirred into a frenzy which will later take over the country.
This isn’t really a crime novel: the mystery is less compelling than the sudden attraction between Hildebrandt and Ute, the baby’s aunt, which surprises them both and is sensitively drawn. Mayhew’s background as a film screenwriter shows in her vivid descriptions, conveyed in slightly formal prose which nods to German language structure. This is a strong, atmospheric debut.