Zen and the Art of Murder by Oliver Bottini; Jamie Bulloch (Translator)

OUT: 11 January 2018

The first in a gripping new crime series set in Germany – the Black Forest Investigations

Louise Boni, maverick chief inspector with the Black Forest crime squad, is struggling with her demons. Divorced at forty-two, she is haunted by the shadows of the past.

Dreading yet another dreary winter weekend alone, she receives a call from the departmental chief which signals the strangest assignment of her career – to trail a Japanese monk wandering through the snowy wasteland to the east of Freiburg, dressed only in sandals and a cowl. She sets off reluctantly, and by the time she catches up with him, she discovers that he is injured, and fearfully fleeing some unknown evil. When her own team comes under fire, the investigation takes on a terrifying dimension, uncovering a hideous ring of child traffickers. The repercussions of their crimes will change the course of her own life.

Oliver Bottini is a fresh and exciting voice in the world of crime fiction in translation; the Rhine borderlands of the Black Forest are a perfect setting for his beautifully crafted mysteries.


The book starts off well with a monk walking through the snow covered village of Freiburg moving through the countryside towards the forest. You get a good sense of atmosphere and that continues during the monks travels. The local police chief calls for help from the Black Forest crime squad even though there does not appear to have been any crime committed. Chief Inspector Louise Boni is sent. Louise walks with the monk, who has clearly been hurt, and stays in the forest with him overnight. It is intriguing.

Louise carries on looking into the monk but her boss wants it finished with. Then there’s a shooting, a death and the monk goes missing. Louise is allowed to carry on. Through this is the issue of Louise’s drinking and being allowed to continue the investigation is agreed provided she sees a psychologist to help with her drink problem. A problem that has been getting worse since Louise’s marital problems and a previous case.

As the investigation continues there are even darker issues that arise. Louise gets suspended but continues looking into what has become a child trafficking ring. There is pace in places and some tension. This is a book which I enjoyed. I liked the fact that it finished after the conclusion of the immediate investigation so you learnt a bit more about what happens. However what happened to the monk, sadly, remained a mystery I know that’s sometimes, indeed, often the case in life but I was disappointed.

We are treated to a prequel short story at the end it helps with some of the background and might have been useful to read first.

It is the first of a series of six books, listed below, which it seems will be translated from the original German into English. So we will get the opportunity to get better acquainted with Louise and her colleagues. I think it may well be worth it.

Rating:  3.5*


With thanks to Querus Books and Maclehouse Press via NetGalley for an eARC in return for an honest review

First published in the German language as Mord im Zeichen des Zen by Scherz Verlag in 2004, and reissued by DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne, in 2015. First published in Great Britain in 2018 by MacLehose Press.

Published by:

Quercus Books:  https://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780857057358
Maclehose Press:   https://www.maclehosepress.com/books/zenandtheartofmurder

Published: 11 Jan 2018

Available In Hardcover: ISBN 9780857057662


2015 WHITE CIRCLE Bonì No. 6





2007 BY THE FATHER Bonì No. 3



Oliver Bottini was born in 1965. Four of his novels, including Zen and the Art of Murder and A Summer of Murder of the Black Forest Investigations, have been awarded the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s most prestigious award for crime writing. In addition his novels have been awarded the Stuttgarter Krimipreis and the Berliner Krimipreis. He lives in Berlin. http://www.bottini.de.

Jamie Bulloch is the translator of Timur Vermes’ Look Who’s Back, Birgit Vanderbeke’s The Mussel Feast, which won him the Schlegel-Tieck Prize, Kingdom of Twilight by Steven Uhly, and novels by F. C. Delius, Jörg Fauser, Martin Suter, Katharina Hagena and Daniel Glattauer.


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