Book review: Anatomy of a Killer by Romy Hausmann

Sunday, August 27, 2023 Permalink

This is the second book I’ve read by Romy Hausmann (her first Dear Child, was also translated by Jamie Bulloch) and I’ve enjoyed both. I’m conscious though, some might grapple with the subject matter Hausmann tends to tackle – involving complex family relationships with child-centric themes.

Here we meet 24yr old Ann, home one night for dinner with her father when the police come knocking to accuse him of being a serial child murderer – responsible for nine deaths over a spate of a dozen years.

Book review: Anatomy of a Killer by Romy HausmannAnatomy of a Killer
by Romy Hausmann, Jamie Bulloch
Published by Quercus
on 06/07/2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1529422388
Pages: 384

Berlin, 2017: several young girls have been disappearing for the past fourteen years. Red ribbons show the police the way to their bodies, but there's no trace of the killer.

One evening, internationally renowned philosophy professor and anthropologist Walter Lesniak is arrested on the suspicion of the murders in the presence of his daughter, Ann.

'Professor Death' becomes the headline of the tabloid press and Lesniak himself refuses to cooperate with the police. Ann is certain this is all some kind of mistake. And she will prove it. Yet, with the arrest of her father, she begins a journey into the unknown . . .

Ann finds it impossible to believe her devoted father – a university lecturer in philosophy and anthropology – is capable of what he’s accused of doing. He remains silent in prison however so she sets out with a journalist to uncover the real killer. Digging up the past lives of the killer’s victims, as well as her own.

Hausmann opens the book beautifully with Ann describing her own death (though it’s a metaphor of sorts). It’s a technique Hausmann adopts a lot. Perhaps too much… in that a scene plays out (potentially a shocking one) but then we learn it’s not what happened. It’s often Ann’s worst nightmare… not realised.

This unfolds via several voices. Ann, of course, as well as someone talking to the children they’re (ummm) ‘caring’ for, and finally an interview with the killer. And in the latter we’re not initially told who the interviewer or interviewee are. Hausmann also intersperses the novel with notes written by a young Ann, about feelings and you can see her father has encouraged her to acknowledge and explore sadness, anger, ‘ditermination, ‘confidens’ and ‘frite’.

What I particularly liked about this book was that – despite Ann believing her father incapable of such crimes – she sees the obvious connections or coincidences, including her father’s anthropological interest in the crimes… wondering if the children knew they were about to die, for example. But Ann asks herself,

Who would I be – what would remain of me? – if everything I’ve been up till now turned out to be a lie?

Dear Child was spectacularly twisty and this is no different. I had a few questions that went unanswered but suspect that’s the nature of crimes such as these. Sometimes the ‘why’ makes no sense at all.

Anatomy of a Killer by Romy Hausmann was published overseas by Quercus Books and now available.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. (Normally I only review ebooks on NetGalley and Goodreads and not my website, but because I’ve posted so little lately – and this was longer than planned – I decided to share it here as well.) 


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