Brother Grimm was the second thriller published by Craig Russell. It appeared in 2006, and a couple of years later, he won the CWA Dagger in the Library. On that same evening I was introduced to him, having been awarded the Short Story Dagger, and that’s when we had our photo taken together. But I’ve only just got round to reading one of his books.
And it is, I must say, a gripping story. Set in Hamburg, it features a likeable cop called Jan Fabel and a psychotic murderer with a fixation on the folklore collected by the Brothers Grimm. I’ve been working on an idea with a folklore angle myself, and I did wonder whether there was any worrying similarity between his concept and mine – fortunately, the answer is no. I liked the way in which Russell ‘followed through’, in the sense of embedding the Grimm’s fairy tale concept in almost every aspect of his novel. This isn't an easy trick to pull off, but he managed it very well.
A girl’s body is found, and there is some puzzling confusion about her identity – is she, or is she not, a teenager who disappeared three years ago? The answer soon proves to be no, which begs a question – why did the killer leave a message sending the police off on that particular track? A couple having an affair are the next victims, and it soon becomes clear that a serial killer is at work.
There are copious red herrings, but this was one book where I managed to spot the culprit on his first appearance (the overly casual way he was brought into the story was the giveaway) - but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment. There were a few points in the middle when there was possibly a bit too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’ in the writing, but by the end of the book I realised this was nothing more than a minor quibble. Fabel and his team are an interesting bunch, and Brother Grimm is a highly entertaining piece of work. I very much look forward to reading more of Craig Russell's fiction in the future.