detective wallner, miesbach

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Wallner was thirty-eight years old, tall and reasonably slim – which was not apparent at the moment. For Wallner wore a voluminous down jacket. He wore it all winter. That is, from the end of September until the beginning of May. Wallner suffered from a condition that is usually attributed to women: Wallner was cold. Constantly. In winter anyway. But also in summer. …
Wallner’s greatest enemy, however, was the draught. Not that Wallner was worried about his health. He simply froze when there was a draught. Other people were surprisingly insensitive in that respect. Wallner, on the other hand, had the most sensitive antennae for air that wouldn’t stand still. Here at the lake the air was still. At minus thirteen degrees.

from: Der Prinzessinenmörder
(own translation)

The Wild South of Germany

Clemens Wallner freezes – he freezes during all his investigations in Upper Bavaria. No wonder: there is always a proper winter here with lots of snow and ice. The mountains are high and snow-covered all the way down into the valley. The lakes freeze over: it is a true winter fairy tale – with murder and manslaughter, beatings, abuse … Fairytale landscape and reality meet.

Wallner’s sensitivity, revealed to the outside world in his sensitivity to temperature and draughts, helps him unmask perpetrators and motives in each of his tricky cases. Often, solving a case depends on nuances of perception: Attention to detail, a reliable gut feeling and the empathetic assessment of witnesses and participants characterise Wallner’s approach.

… and Wallner doesn’t fit into his environment at all, because we are actually in the Wild South, aka Upper Bavaria (or for comparison: like the Wild, Wild West of USA). Here we still find the men in full who drink five or six half-pint beers in the inn, top it off with a few glasses of home-distilled schnapps and then climb into their car (or climb onto the tractor!) and drive home. Because it’s usually late, the speedometer needle shakes at eighty, a hundred, a hundred and twenty … Or two friends want to test which car is faster and organise a small private race. If it’s still a bit icy on the road … Everyone knows the police officers – in the village people know each other quite well – and they sometimes turn a blind eye.

At home, the wife/fiancée/girlfriend is waiting, and if she grumbles, she quickly gets punched in the mouth – there are many black eyes and bruises … These women in Upper Bavaria are always running blindly into doors and archways, tripping on stairs … Daughters are fair game – and best always stay in the house and take care of the men in the family from early in the morning until late at night.

Everyone has a rifle to do a bit of poaching and a corner in the barn where the schnapps is bootlegged. Cash changes hands. Nobody needs bills. Abandoned cars disappear never to be seen again in junkyards …

… and in the middle of it all is Clemens Wallner, trying with his team and numerous special task forces to bring light into the darkness of the Upper Bavarian scene when once again a corpse turns up.

I would like to say a few words about Leonhardt Kreuthner, who is a senior police officer. The novels all have the subtitle A Wallner & Kreuthner crime novel. I have read the books and for me Wallner is the main character; Kreuthner is more a kind of little devil that keeps popping up and causing trouble … and he is a running gag!

Kreuthner lives up to his nickname Leichen-Leo (i. e. Cadaver Leo) because he finds corpses, skeletons, murdered people – all the time. Again and again. In every novel. He finds them when he walks across a frozen lake in the morning to sober up; he finds them when he starts an endurance run to finally pass the police health test; he finds them when he organises an illegal car race with a drinking buddy; he finds them when he wants to pick up a woman for a romantic night at carnival and invades the – as he assumes – empty house of an acquaintance …

Kreuthner is two years younger than Wallner and will stay with the uniformed police force forever – promotion out of question. He will be lucky if he doesn’t lose his job one day. Why? He likes to drink a lot, and he also likes to drink with old friends who operate beyond the law … and afterwards he drives home and sometimes gets into a police check. He inherited a moonshine distillery from his late uncle, which he diligently continues to operate – not only for domestic use. He is always up for a joke, whether it’s blocking a newlywed couple’s access to the toilet in their house on their wedding night or stealing the maypole from the neighbouring village.

Kreuthner is and remains Kreuthner: Wallner knows it and always expects the worst when Kreuthner suddenly appears somewhere or seems to be involved in some villainy. But let’s move on to Wallner, our hard-working investigator, who manages to solve every case, no matter how tricky – even if he has to delve very deeply into the past to do so, because often current murder cases are only the last link in a chain of events that was set in motion years or even decades ago.

Wallner has quite a small team that covers investigations in the vicinity of the dead, interviews and interrogations, etc., that carries out evidence recovery, that masters internet research – in short: everything that comes up. In murder cases, support almost always comes from the surrounding area in order to cope with the mass of clues and results – task forces of 20-30 people are the order of the day.

What happens in the Wild South?
It’s about incest and the consequences for victims and accomplices – years later. A father starts a vendetta to avenge the tragic accidental death of his daughter. A real estate scandal somewhere in the republic causes deaths after more than 20 years. Fellow German sympathisers – i. e. RAF & Co. – withdraw from the terrorist business in which they were never really active and soothe their consciences by later jointly extorting a few million for good deeds, which of course is not without collateral damage. Illegitimate children are illegally placed; years later, the mothers seek revenge.

… and there is another very special case:
It is about a crime from the Third Reich. In most cases, I have made the experience that the inclusion of these quite interesting cases ultimately fails because time inexorably slips away. After all, more than 75 years have passed since the end of WWII. Criminals, Nazis and war criminals from the time of the Third Reich are now long dead or between 90 and 100 years old. In this series, however, the problem is solved quite well, as the novel is set as early as 1992 – so chronologically the first novel in the series. Wallner and Kreuthner are involved as very young policemen and are both still at the beginning of their careers or non-careers.

The other novels take place between 2007 and today. During this time, Wallner’s development is portrayed with much devotion. After all, Wallner marries for the second time during this time and becomes the father of a daughter. The marriage does not last long, however, so Wallner only sees his daughter on individual weekends. (His first marriage failed after the baby they had together tragically died.) Wallner is not happy with being alone or alone again.

He lives with his grandfather, who is now over 80 years old but still agile and fit for all kinds of possible and impossible little adventures. Dementia, however, seems to be slowly creeping up on him … Wallner is always worried about his grandfather.

Wallner’s mother died in a bathing accident when Wallner was 2 years old; later it turns out that it was a more likely suicide. Wallner’s father goes to South America for a few years on business and does not return. All channels of communication dry up. Wallner, then seven years old, is desperate and stays behind with his grandparents. The grandmother leaves the grandfather when Wallner is 22. Here, too, communication falls silent.

All that Wallner obviously had left is his grandfather, whom he cares for with great devotion. Then … Wallner learns that he still has a half-sister … and he also learns that his father is still alive … Wallner’s family is complicated and his attitude to life is overshadowed by the losses he has had to experience over the decades. He does not have it easy.

The series of novels gives a consistent picture of the years that pass in the novels and that time before. It becomes clear again and again that all crimes are complex and their roots often lie in the past. It is often difficult for Wallner and his team to fight their way through the jungle of half-truths, memory gaps and lies – the consistent picture also includes the goals and actions of those involved, who confront the police. Guilt, atonement, revenge, greed and envy are dominant themes in the Wild South, where people also tend to take their view of things into their own hands to correct any other picture.

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a faint cold fear thrills through my veins ... william shakespeare