The most amazing thing, hands down, about Wolf Haas’ mystery novel THE BONE MAN is the striking prose. No amount of effusiveness could live up to it. Pardon my hyperbole. The prose, aside from the novel taken as a whole, is a work of art in itself. Of course, given that this is a translation from Austrian, credit is due a translator, such as Annie Janusch, able to bring over from that language to English the nuances and subtleties and outright delights of the prose. I should mention that when I say prose here, I’m really including the whole mode of storytelling, so maybe I should talk about that. The narrative is in first person, but the name of the narrator is never known. But it’s somebody you know. You, the reader, enter the story as the listener as the known/unknown narrative spins his tale about a man named Brenner, gumshoe and former cop. It’s a great tale, told in swell fashion by a narrator the reader never meets - unless its one of the colorful side characters in a colorful town full of colorful characters, and a bit of freaky crime. It’s a nice mix with the friendly style of the tale, the darkness that is. But I was telling you about how you never know who the narrator is, except the you that is drug into the story as observer, also never named, knows the narrator who is sharing this story with his pal, or maybe at least somebody he/she met down at the chicken shack, you know, where the human bones were found in among the chicken bones. That’s what Brenner, a character himself, in his subtle way, is poking around this small town to find out about. Except he discovers tons more chicanery than the mere murder it starts out to be. The book brings all sorts of unexpected questions and surprising answers to questions you didn’t know you had. Zigzag, zipzap, hither-thither but all smooth flow. A brilliant book whose brilliance - haven’t I said enough to convince you? - comes through in unique and surprising ways and whose voice is among the most unique iconoclast genius voices in literature. The way the tale is told is as gripping as the tale itself. Pat yourself on the back, Mr. Haas. And, please, keep writing. Already among the greats of mystery fiction, you know?
Melville International Crime, trade paperback, $14.95/$14.95 Can., 174 pp., note: follow up to Brenner and God