BRENNER AND GOD is the seventh in the Brenner series by Austrian author Wolf Haas but the first to be translated into English.
Former Viennese police officer Simon Brenner has a new job as a chauffeur. His main role is driving Helena, the two-year-old daughter of a successful couple along the autobahn between her mother, running an abortion clinic in Vienna, and her father, an owner of an important construction firm in Munich.
On one such trip Brenner has to refuel the car and leaves Helena in the car alone for a few minutes whilst he buys coffee for himself and a forbidden chocolate bar for her; he returns to the vehicle to find her gone. As well as being questioned by the police he is also fired from his job. But Brenner decides to get to the bottom of the kidnapping. Both parents have their detractors particularly Helena's mum whose clinic has protesters outside it every day whilst her father is about to build the controversial Megaland, and yet there doesn't seem to be a ransom demand. Brenner gets involved in the complex intertwined world of construction, banking and local government before the truth is revealed as to the whereabouts of Helena.
BRENNER AND GOD is a pacey and gripping read with a complicated plot and yet is only a shade over 200 pages. Being the seventh in the series, it does leave the reader missing some of the back-story as to what has made Brenner become a civilian and why he is on medication. However it doesn't reduce the enjoyment of the story, with its very unusual narrative style. Told from a humorous third-person point of view which frequently tells the reader to “pay attention” and offers its own commentary on events:
“And there you have it, once again, the best proof that there's nothing in the world that doesn't have its good side. Because your average Viennese citizen might find it depressing that a new off-track betting parlor opens up every day, but purely for detective street practices, it's convenient when you can wait in the entrance of the next betting parlor for your shadower.”
I recommend this quirky tale and look forward to the next one which will be the second in the series, THE BONE MAN, which has been made into a film.