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»Oh, du liabs Herrgöttle von Biberach, wia hent di d’ Mucka verschissa!«
… like: ‘Oh my God – we messed up!’
Ernst Bienzle (again & again)
All began with Nuclear War …
Somewhere in the rural nowhere in southwest Germany lies a small, tranquil town where the clocks still seem to move a little slower. There is good home cooking in the restaurants and always a glass of drinkable wine is quickly served with it.
Too bad there is a nuclear power plant nearby. The mayor is quite pleased, because it brings work and tax money to his little town. But … there are others with many fears and anxieties, even conspiracy theories.
It is the end of the 1970s: Nuclear power? No thanks.
The Greens aka the political party has not yet seen the light of day, but many are protesting against the civilian use of nuclear energy. The political climate is heating up …
… and then a journalist discovers nuclear waste at the rubbish dump of our tranquil little town, which has no business being there. A storm breaks loose! Suddenly a terrorist group comes forward threatening to pollute the waters with more nuclear waste. (This is the 70s – the RAF aka Rote Armee Fraktion sends its regards!)
Suddenly a plot with all the relevant ingredients is stirred up that feels like a disaster. But this is Baden-Württemberg: here people work, create diligently and live honestly. Detective Chief Inspector Ernst Bienzle is sent from Stuttgart to sort out the mess.
Bienzle looks around and then everything is very quickly reduced to a very limited local area – and the perpetrators are apprehended. There is no terrorist attack – never has been. There is a little action, but it remains cosy. Nuclear war doesn’t happen.
Bienzle is in his late thirties at the time of his first case and he ages over the next few years with all his cases until he retires. Since he is a bit of a workaholic, retirement is not really his thing, but he can’t help it. Without getting ahead of himself, he skips his farewell party and goes south with his partner to Ticino for a long holiday.
His private life is difficult. His marriage fails because of his job and his obsession when he is on a case. He finds a new partner, but here too there are ups and downs … Every now and then, Bienzle’s professional life takes priority. But Bienzle already discovers that he doesn’t want to stay alone, or that he can’t either.
Professionally, there are always new challenges: There are murders to solve, missing persons to find, kidnappings to deal with, child abuse … Everything that can happen, happens in these decades until retirement. And Bienzle is always in the thick of it. After all, he is not only responsible for Stuttgart, but also for the entire region around it. In any case, it never gets boring, because every case brings to light astonishing secrets, mostly from the past.
But the police are not only noble, helpful and good. There are also opportunists, envious people, troublemakers … not to mention those who would like to take it easy. Bienzle meets them all in his investigations and they all cut their teeth on him.
The technical side of the investigation always plays a subordinate role. The results of forensics and post-mortem examinations are available, are discussed and provide a few details, but for Bienzle, it’s more his gut feeling that comes to the fore. His investigative methods, although they always lead to the goal, are driven more by chance and hunches and experience. It reminds me a little of the veteran from Paris, Inspector Maigret …
The novels are a successful mixture of provincial cosiness and exciting criminal case – and paint an interesting picture of the German provincial backwater. Provincial backwater? There is still Stuttgart …
Somehow it is probably no coincidence that Bienzle has managed to ascend (or descend) to a Tatort commissioner – depending on how you see this German TV product. Milieu and crime fit perfectly into this crime series, although of course the flair of the novels remains untouched, which is their charm …