Eva Rossmann

Born in Graz (Austria) in 1962, Eva now lives in the Weinviertel (wine region) in Lower Austria. She graduated as Doctor of Law, specializing in constitutional law, and later worked as a journalist for ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation), the NZZ (New Zurich Newspaper) and the "Oberoesterreichischen Nachrichten" (Upper Austria News).

Eva has been working as a freelance author and journalist since 1994. In 2000, she was voted Communicator of the Year for her commitment to womens rights. She has published several works of non-fiction and has been writing crime novels since 1999. All of her novels, featuring journalist-investigator Mira Valensky and her  friend of bosnian origin Vesna Krajner, cope with a part of nowadays society ...

In order to write her novel „Ausgekocht", Eva did a lot of practical research, working in the kitchen of one of Austrias best-known chefs: Manfred Buchinger (Buchingers Gasthaus "Zur Alten Schule"). Since then, she has continued cooking with him, and, after passing the state-approved examination in 2004, can proudly call herself a qualified chef.

Her novel "Russen kommen" (Russians coming) was voted Austrias favourite book of 2009.

For "Männerfallen" she got the Leo Perutz Price - the mystery novel award of Vienna

Eva Rossmann is hosts of the popular ORF Radio talkshow Café Sonntag on Ö1 and worked also as a scriptwriter.

Her titles:

Wahlkampf (1999), Ausgejodelt (2000), Freudsche Verbrechen (2001), Kaltes Fleisch (2002), Ausgekocht (2003), Karibik all inclusive (2004), Wein & Tod (2005), Verschieden (2006), MillionenKochen (2007), Mira kocht (2007), das Kochbuch zur Krimiserie, Russen kommen (2008), Leben lassen (2009), Evelyns Fall (2010), Unterm Messer (2011), Unter Strom (2012), Männerfallen (2013), ALLES ROT (2014)

 Auf ins Weinviertel - 55 Reiseverführungen, Eva Rossmann & Manfred Buchinger, (Folio-Verlag 2012) - a kind of very personal guide through the reagion in the north and east of vienna, the "Weinviertel" (Winequarter) with recipies

Krummvögel, Limbusverlag, Serie AC Wohnen (März 2013)

A very different book, you can see that also on youtube: Krummvögel

aperback Bastei Lübbe (Germany), Italian Cult Editore, "Russen kommen" (Goodness! Russians are coming) by Ariandne Publishing House

 This brand new mystery novel deals with the financial crisis in Europe and is set in Cyprus, the Weinviertel wine-growing region of Austria and in Brussels.

Thanks to Margaret Knox Müller for the translations!!!

 

“RED ALL OVER “

by EVA ROSSMANN

  - The sun, sea and sand of Cyprus;

- the apparent peace of the Austrian wine-growing countryside;

- the hustle and bustle of Brussels;

 just some of the locations explored by journalist Mira Valensky as she seeks to solve her 16th case.

When high-flying Eurocrat Dagmar Wieser, leader of the EU Financial Task Force in Cyprus, is found murdered it is unclear whether her killing was personal or political. Was Dagmar’s death an act of terrorism caused by the banking collapse in Cyprus? Her partner, former actor Paulus Reisinger, is directing the play "Othello’s Legacy" - have the show’s themes of jealousy and loss of trust been enacted in real life? Suspicion grows when evidence emerges of Dagmar’s possible infidelity. What lies behind Reisinger’s involvement in Austrian local politics with his childhood friend Franz Schwarzenberger? Seemingly helpful Cypriot bartender Pete, an ex-banker, may also have secrets to hide.

Mira has to rely on her wits, her Bosnian friend Vesna and her innate curiosity to unravel the mystery.


About the author: Eva Rossmann lives in the wine-growing countryside of Lower Austria, north of Vienna. A former TV presenter and journalist she now spends her time cooking for pleasure and writing. Her books include a cookery book and a guide to her home region, as well as her novels. Her protagonist, the inquisitive and humorous journalist Mira Valensky, (aided and abetted by Bosnian cleaner friend Vesna Krajner) has now investigated 16 cases spanning a range of contemporary scenarios.

Prizes for Eva Rossmann’s work include the Josef-Krainer Prize for Culture 2013 and the Leo-Perutz Prize for crime literature given by the City of Vienna in 2014.


International media praise for "Red All Over":

"Crime without dumb clichés and prejudices"   Kurier (Austria)

"European politics and an exciting detective story are not mutually exclusive in Eva Rossmann’s hands"    ORF (Austrian National Broadcasting Corporation)


"She mixes a dream holiday location, tempting food, up-to-date politics and murder to create a gripping read"     Zypern Rundschau (Cyprus Review for German speakers)

 

 "A red-hot topic"     Die Presse (Austria)


 "Even on her 16th case Mira Valensky is not afraid of controversy"    Format (Austria)

 

"A Mira Valensky story is a bit like a chat with a bubbly friend"   Bücher, the independent German magazine for literature and spoken books.


These are the parts I read when I am "on tour"...

 

ALLES ROT Translation Chapter 3 (Page 31)

Rattling. A weird noise that sounds different. A sort of high-pitched buzzing whistling as if air was escaping from a puncture. I look around. Nobody else seems to have noticed. Should I call the stewardess? Or should I get her here under some other pretext so she doesn’t think I’m crazy? She’s done the training. She should know what’s going on. She’ll notice that sweat is running down my forehead. And that my legs are so cramped I can hardly move them. Which is only natural for a human being whose instincts are telling them that they’re going to die.

 This turbulence can’t be normal.

 She won’t come - they’re too busy preparing for the crash. Even though they look like everything’s normal. They have to do that so as not to cause a panic. Because everyone would be hysterical if they noticed what’s going on. So if there’s a problem with the plane somewhere here towards the back where my seat is, like a hole or something else wrong then they can all jump up and run to the front. And then the plane would overbalance, it’s only just managing to stay airborne as it is. I must stay calm. What else can I do? Just breathe deeply and remember that this will be over in an hour and half. One way or the other.

"This stupid turbulence always happens over Southern Europe" says the man sitting behind me. Does he mean politically?

 He doesn’t look like an engineer. If he was he would have noticed this is more than just a strong wind. Or airs currents or something else normal. I see the stewardess. Has she really not noticed something is wrong or is she just pretending? If I could just get her attention… Perhaps she’ll bring me another red wine. I’ve already had two, but why should I care what she thinks? Red wine relaxes me. But

I should keep a cool head. And the first two miniature bottles didn’t help much. Which is logical because the body reacts differently when its in danger.

"Could I have another red wine?" I ask the stewardess. She gives me a look. Can she hear the whistling buzzing noise? Oh, damn! Bump! It’s happening! She’s thrown to the other side of the aisle. I wait to hear an alarm. Do they have sirens on aeroplanes?

"It’s the autumn weather, it’s always a bit unsettled" she says with a smile. "I’ll be right back with your wine".

She really hasn’t noticed, the silly cow! She probably became a stewardess to catch herself a rich first class husband. Or, more likely, some old sugar daddy fixed her up with the job. She’s useless, all she can do is a bit of waitressing.

She returns with the red wine.

"Careful" she says. Like I can do anything stuck here! "Can you hear a strange noise?" I ask. "It’s a sort of whistling hum, or maybe it’s a humming whistling sound?"

She pretends to be listening then shakes her head. "No. Perhaps there’s something wrong with your hearing."

Yeah, great, thanks! We’re in mortal danger and the lady doctor here diagnoses tinnitus! She totters off. Perhaps it’s for the best or I might have had to put her straight on a few things .. the plane bounces again. This time a couple of the passengers exclaim. Right, get the more intelligent ones together and then … what then? There is no then. That’s the whole problem. I unscrew the red wine bottle.

The woman sitting next to me is fast asleep. Unbelievable! I take a couple of gulps of wine straight from the bottle. No point risking it splashing from  the glass onto my shirt with all this shaking going on.


Some time later I wobble my way to the exit. Once again, I have survived.


ALLES ROT Translation Chapter 3 (Pages 35-41)


We sit on the terrace, there’s a light breeze and I’ve just pulled on my sweater. By daylight, there would be a view of the sea, but now I see the lights of the hotels of Protaras. Even though the resort seems to have been built in a similar style to Ayia Napa, from a distance in the evening they both have a romantic look. The meal was wonderful. Dagmar Wieser ordered in typical Cypriot appetisers from a local restaurant. I’ve had similar delicacies in Vienna from Kopiaste which is still one of our favourite restaurants. But here - the taramasalata, the tsatsiki, the aubergine dip, the olives and the little homemade sardines in oil called skordalia - everything tastes just that bit better. And as for the delicious dish of tender octopus…. I praise everything sincerely and enthusiastically.

"Tsatsiki Cyprus style is so easy, even I can make it" says the EU official.  "Cut or grate the cucumber. Salt it, let it draw, after 10 minutes squeeze out the moisture and mix with some thick Greek yoghurt. A little garlic and a lot of mint and that’s it! But just now I’m short of time. And besides, I’m a terrible cook. Luckily we have this wonderful restaurant nearby where everything is homemade."

Paulus gazes lovingly at her. "Before the division of Cyprus Protaras was just a little fishing village" he says.

"What about Ayia Napa?" I ask encouragingly.

 "Exactly the same. When the Cypriots lost the resorts in the north, building here went crazy. Sadly, without much thought for the surrounding landscape."

"It’s a good thing that Cap Greco is a nature reserve".

Dagmar laughs softly. "You can probably thank NATO for that. There were  important listening posts there. But as we know, there are probably more efficient ways to gather information now that we’ve got the internet".

"I saw the aerials".

"They’ll be for the medium wave signals. Even so, it’s a restricted area."

Little villages, becoming major resorts … villages … oh yes, speaking of villages there was something else I wanted to ask Paulus. "I read that you are the mayor of Bruckthal".

HIs glance shows his irritation. Well, it is quite a change of subject.

"Yes, for a few years now. Why do you ask?"

"It’s unusual".

The actor laughs. "That’s just the way it happened. After my nasty break-up with Deborah I went back to my home town. There was a hell of a row going on. Everyone at each other’s throats, party members alike. The old mayor had died. Problems arose about a planned wind park in the area which somehow reignited lots of old grievances and animosities going back years, in some cases decades. I had no commitments and too much time on my hands. And I did want to do something for the community. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I said too much in the local pub - I said it was crazy that people in such a little village couldn’t get along and then they said that I should stand for election. They arranged it so that I could be an independent candidate. That’s what happened".

"The TV detective as mayor".

"Sure, that was a factor, that everyone knew me from television. But it was just as important that I had never been part of any of the quarrelling. I won more than 70% of the vote. And suddenly I had a new job."

Dagmar lays her hand on his shoulder "Another engagement".

"I obviously need it it".

"So how does that work with your theatrical production?" I want to know.

"At that time I hadn’t even thought about it. But Bruckthal is a small place. Nobody expects me to sit in the office all day. And the mayor’s secretary is fantastic. When I get more time I’ll be able to give Bruckthal more attention."

Paulus stands up, taking the empty wine bottle with him.

Dagmar Wieser leans back in her chair like me and we gaze at the sky.

"It’s hard to imagine that once only a few fisherfolk lived down on this coast." I say.

"Now there are more than a hundred hotels in Protaras. Plus any number of holiday apartments. Regardless. It’s like paradise." She says.

"Yes, for us." I reply. We haven’t talked much about the situation on the island. We’ve eaten and drunk and Paulus has told tales of the everyday goings on of travelling players. We’re on first name terms of course. I like it that it was no big deal. Having two ways of saying ‘you’ in German makes things so complicated - the protocol in knowing what’s appropriate, waiting for the older person to offer, or work out who is socially superior or what’s the correct thing to do.

And there’s that thing when you call someone by their first name, but still address them with the formal ‘Sie’ . We should do away with the whole caboodle! After all, the Brits and the Scandinavians have managed it even though they’re not the most informal of people! Dagmar laughs when I say this to her. "It would make a nice change for England to do something constructive!"

Paulus returns and I see how smitten he is with his girlfriend. Dagmar is not exactly what you might expect of a high-ranking EU official: She’s wearing cropped jeans, a white t-shirt and flip flops. She laughs, she drinks and even her blonde hair isn’t perfectly styled. Not this evening, anyway. I’d guess she’s in her early forties.

I wonder if she’s good at her job? She’s certainly ambitiously climbing the career ladder - I’ve googled her. She studied economics and law. And now she’s leading the EU task force for the Cyprus programme. The Cypriot newspapers don’t seem to like her. In the English editions I’ve seen her called "Merkel 2" and I doubt that was meant as a compliment. How does she handle it? But I don’t want to disturb the pleasant evening. I’ll have another glass of wine. It’s not a problem, the hotel is less than 10 minutes from here. And in the worst of cases I can get a taxi.

"The fact that I have to fight in Cyprus, of all places, to be able to put on "Othello’s Legacy" is absurd. Considering that our Othello is a Cypriot." says Paulus. "But we’ll manage somehow. I might get a special subvention from Brussels. Or sponsorship from a couple of business people."

Dagmar smiles. "It would be great if you could perform here. But you are aware: I can’t help you. It would be against all the rules and against my principles."

"Of course not." Paulus answers, kissing her brow. Perhaps it’s time for me to leave.

"One has to be careful" says Dagmar to me. "They won’t forgive any mistakes, if you’re coming from Brussels and giving them good advice. And then you’re documenting their progress - which of course is perceived as checking up on them."

"Isn’t that awfully tiring?"

She sighs. "Sure. Constantly. But I like this mission in spite of that. Mainly because of Cyprus. Naturally also because of the EU. But clearly there have to be strict parameters. It’s part of my job to check whether they are fulfilling the conditions. Or at least trying to. Here and there some generosity will have to shown, they won’t be able to complete all the requirements and they need more time. Any reasonable person can see that. But anyone believing they will get money out of the EU to solve their problems is sadly mistaken."

"Do people believe that?"

"The average Cypriot doesn’t think that but then they wouldn’t get the money directly anyway. Unfortunately there is a small group of a select few who are testing the boundaries of what the EU will allow or what might be done with new EU money. And I don’t have any scruples about pointing that out."

"Merkel 2." I mutter.

Paulus Riesinger stares at me crossly. "You shouldn’t repeat that name. It’s…"

The career diplomat puts her hand on his arm and laughs. "You don’t need to protect me, Paulus. I don’t have a problem with being compared to our Chancellor. Sure, it’s meant as a bad thing. It’s one of the worst aspects of this crisis, the new anti-foreigner feeling."

"Anti-German?"

"That too. They portray Merkel as Hitler and accuse us of wanting to rule over them. Germans are always seen like that. I saw a video of a demonstration that was quite worrying. But that was straight after the collapse of the banks. And we can defend ourselves. Much worse is the situation for the people who have to work here. And the fact that they chanted "Throw the Turks into the sea and the EU too!"

"And they have the nerve not to want our "Othello," sighs Paulus, "Even though it shows the sinking of most of the Turkish fleet."

"Charming!" mocks Dagmar. "Perhaps you should publicise that aspect of the play!"

Paulus looks at me. "Dagmar takes it all lightly. But it worries me. There have been threats. And anonymous phone calls. And they smeared her car with shit!"

"It goes with the territory." The EU representative is dismissive. "The police were notified about the threats, although there’s not much they can do. I felt sorry for the cop who had to investigate the shitty car. And the guy who had to wash it. Besides, there’s also plenty of people who are happy about the reforms. Or at least who understand the need for them. Even the measures about money laundering were long overdue."

We are quiet for a bit as we drink and enjoy the gentle night air.

"Most people just want their peace and their jobs" I say eventually.

"Of course." replies Dagmar. "The question is whether they’ll get heated up if they feel that’s under threat. Cyprus has fulfilled the financial criteria of the EU: but the official unemployment figures show a rate of 20%. Unofficially it could be even higher. Recently, I was travelling with the head of the German Central Bank in Nicosia. As usual, he had a bodyguard with him. And suddenly there was a shout from a pavement cafe - "The Troika, the Troika!" A couple of people stood up. The bodyguard took us down a sidestreet for safety. They didn’t follow us, they wouldn’t have done anything, but it was a strange situation. But even so, as I said, I like the Cypriots, I like them very much."

Paulus looks at her attentively "Not too much I hope".

She laughs. "I thought you were in favour of a wider Europe, darling!"

"True, true, but I want you all to myself".

A peculiar pause.

"I mean of course I want what private life you have time for, I’d never have any say in your work, I hate men who do that, they’re dinosaurs."

"I know, Paulus."

I try to lighten the strange mood. "Can you remember that chap who said that men are oppressed and have to stand up for themselves in every relationship? His book whipped up a storm on all the bestseller lists last year."

"Sure" says Paulus "Didn’t something happen to him?"

I nod. Somehow it feels like it’s really time to call it a night.

A car pulls up to the house. The headlights light up the hill. A glance at the time. It’s gone eleven. I look at my hostess. She shrugs. Could it be an attack on the leader of the Eu task force? An assailant would hardly drive up in a car, headlights blazing - would they? A lone, crazy attacker who wants revenge against "Merkel 2" or the Germans or the EU? Too many fears for one day, Mira.

"Call me, we can meet up tomorrow in Nicosia" says Dagmar, as if she wants to get rid of me.

The car parks behind the house.

"Right" I say "Thanks for the lovely evening. And I’ll be in touch about the interview."

"I have some good contacts for you. For instance, the rector of the university. He wants to use the crisis not just to get the university using renewable energy, but also to kickstart a major solar and photovoltaic project in Cyprus. He thinks this might be a good opportunity now that energy prices have increased so much. He wants to show that there are chances to improve things even in a crisis."

"What about the offshore gasfields that I’ve heard so much about?"

"Forget about them!" says a manly voice behind me in Austrian-accented German.

"Oh Franz, it’s you." Dagmar doesn’t seem exactly delighted.

"I was with friends in Protoras and I just thought I’d see how my friend Paulus is doing."

Paulus stands up, the men embrace.

"Lifelong friends." explains Dagmar with a roll of the eyes. "They met in kindergarten. Grew up in the same village. Can’t be helped."

"And now both together in Cyprus? What a coincidence." I say.

"No coincidence. Mr Schwarzenberger does business here."

"Mira, meet my oldest friend, Franz" says Paulus with a sidelong glance at his girlfriend. "The tycoon of Bruckthal. Quarries, gravel pits and a travel agency."

"Don’t forget the tanning studios." says Dagmar, sharply. "Holiday At Home, they’re called. Get it? Something for everyone."

I take a look at Franz Schwarzenberger. He’s tall, looks younger than late 50s. Slimmer than Paulus. But a bit too smooth. At least, that’s my first impression.

"Mira Valensky, reporter from Vienna" Paulus introduces me.

We shake hands.

"And who is the star of her report?" asks Schwarzenberger. I’m starting to dislike him.

"The people of Cyprus" I reply.

"Then you should talk to me. I know how they tick. I’ve been dealing with them for more than 10 years. Rogues, but with a good nose for business. They’ll get back on their feet if the EU doesn’t interfere too much. They’re world champions in ignoring the facts, well, maybe runners-up, coming in a close second after Austria." He hands me his card. Crossly, I put it away.

"And what line of business brings you here?"

"The travel agency, etcetera".

"Tell the truth" Dagmar instructs. "He was up to his neck in the financial sector."

"You exaggerate" says Schwarzenberger casually. "You shouldn’t have such a warped view of your beloved’s old pal."

"Don’t worry, I see you clearly. And I did say ‘was’."

Time to get out of here.

I’ll ask Dagmar tomorrow what she has against Schwarzenberger.   And I have a growing feeling that dear old Paulus is not quite as straightforward as he’s making himself out to be.


ALLES ROT Translation Chapter 8 (pages 116-120)



Merkel 2 has been done in. When will time be up for Merkel 1?

I honestly found that post in an internet forum! It was supposed to be a discussion about new opportunities for unemployed young people in Europe. That comment is bound to be deleted pretty quickly. But before the site moderators can react, other posters have joined in. "TokenWoman" is outraged at this incitement to murder. "HenryTheEighth" says that tyrants have been murdered throughout history. Tyrants and their hangers-on shouldn’t be so pathetic! But "Zorro" says that murder never made anything better. "You peace-loving softie!" comes the reply "What would happen if they raped and tortured and then killed your girlfriend? Would you just stand by? The bastard politicians screw us over on a daily basis".

It’s probably better not to read this stuff!

But then again, even if it happens in a virtual and anonymous space, it’s still part of our reality. At least some of it - in a German-language forum - in German. So it’s probably written by Germans and Austrians. Although it’s safe to assume that they will have something similar in Greece, in Spain and in Cyprus. Maybe they’re even worse there. I wonder how far a leap it is from trolling to actual radicalism?


I sit at my desk in the newsroom and work on my next article in the series about people in the EU. I write a piece about the inflamed situation in Cyprus and the demo I experienced. There’s next to nothing new in the case of Dagmar Wieser.


The Cyprus police merely report that they are following various lines of enquiry and that the body will probably be released next week for a funeral in Germany. Her mother lives in Hannover, and there’s also a sister.


My next piece is an interview with Janet Bloom, an Irish woman who went from being unemployed to founding an employment agency especially for young people with great success. She’s written a book about it. Now she’s on a promotional tour and gives lectures on how to turn a crisis into an opportunity! Sounds good, but I fear it won’t apply to each and every crisis. But her publicist has prepared some really nice photos of her and of Ireland.


Oscar and I want to go out to eat. We haven’t decided where, though. Not everything has to be planned in advance. I input my articles for editing and then have a routine look through my emails.


I check the spam filter. Recently a few mails that should have come to my inbox have ended up with the spam, but today all I find truly is spam. Let’s see how many fortunes are waiting to be claimed! The son of an African king is offering me the chance to invest in his goldmine. Is there really anyone alive who believes this crap? Someone I don’t know, with a most peculiar email address would like to meet me. There’s an email with the title "News from Cyprus". Could it be from Paulus Reisinger? Unlikely! I open the email anyway. Then I want to delete it straight away.  Obviously even Cyprus must have its sickos and somehow one of them has tracked me down. It’s in English:


You were so hot today, you’ve set me on fire, you beautiful woman! Love, G.


When will I see you, darling? You black-haired devil! I can sneak out of the office, I’ll say I have a "meeting". I’m so longing to "meet" you, it’s making me wet!  Love, D.


I want you, I need you, I want to burn you up, my sword is waiting to impale you. Love, G.


He was here so I couldn’t get away, my darling. He’s killing me but one day everything will be different. My sweet, dark angel, your little blonde devil kisses every part of your body and I mean every part. Love, D.


And so on. Ugh! The world was somehow a more innocent place before the internet. Or at least, it seemed to be, because we didn’t get to experience everything happening live all the time.


"Love, G". "Love, D". G for Giorgos. D for Dagmar. Can that be a coincidence? And "He was here" would also fit. Paulus was in Cyprus. I read further. I can hardly believe it. Someone has sent me evidence of sexting between Dagmar Wieser and Giorgos Konstantinou. I check the sender’s address again and soon establish that it’s from an internet café in Larnaca. It will be hard to find out exactly who sent it. I try anyway. A certain Tanya answers within a couple of minutes. At the moment there are 14 customers online, she writes, people come and go all the time, regular customers don’t have to register, they can get online as soon as a terminal is free.


I send her a photo of Paulus Reisinger. No, he hasn’t been in, she’s pretty sure. A description of Giorgos - oh, there’s loads of men here who look like that. She offers to go round and ask if anyone is called Giorgos. She’s intrigued. Lovely Tanya! I wait. Ten minutes later comes her next mail. "Sorry, none of them are called Giorgos. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and I’ll let you know if I see anything suspicious. Greetings to Austria! What’s it all about, anyway?"


The person who sent me these texts must have some connection to the murder. I’ll have to get hold of Zuckerbrot. There are official channels, Europol, Interpol. The Cyprus police will have to seize the computers from the internet café and find out as quickly as possible which one was used to forward these intimate texts. He would have covered his tracks. But I know from Fran that there will be traces on the hard drive. Right. So what next? Questioning to find out who used that computer? Anyone still there will have to be held by the police. How long does it take to investigate a computer? Forget it, Mira. No, it’s a lead. They’ll need the addresses of the people who are using the internet café right now. I mail Tanya, briefly explaining what’s going on. "Wow. If our customers cooperate, sure, but I can’t force them to give their addresses. I can try and secretly take pictures of them if you like? As long as the boss isn’t here, he wouldn’t like it".


OK. Now for Zuckerbrot. My mobile rings. Is he telepathic? No, it’s Vesna.


"Isn’t it crazy? Why didn’t you call me? Or are you being on your way there? You have right, should be more careful. But who can guess such a thing?"


What on earth is she talking about?


"Mira? Are you hearing me? Where are you?"


Does she know about the sexting? Has everyone been sent copies? From the bogus address in Larnaka?


"I’m here. Is it about the sexting?"


"What is this sexting? It is about Paulus Reisinger. Don’t tell me you are not knowing? It was in the radio. In the news. I was hearing it. Well, Hans was hearing it and he was telling me right away. Because he is realising…"


"What news?" I yell.


"Shot in head. Paulus Reisinger. On beach. In the night. He was found".


"Tell me it isn’t true!"


"Is true! He is alive, but in coma. Nobody knows if suicide or murder. He was wearing gloves. Gunshot is being heard or else he is being dead."


We shouldn’t have left him alone. The theatre company should have made him go to Rome with them. The Cyprus police should have seen he was at risk. What was it he said in the café in Nicosia? ‘All is lost, nothing else is important’. Something like that. Not even his own life? But then, if it’s not important why not continue to live?


"Mira!" shouts Vesna.


"Sorry. Thank you. I’m on a deadline here. And I’ve been sent some wild sexy texts between Giorgos and Dagmar. Just now. By email. I’ll call you tonight".


"It all goes together, I am telling you. So it is being suicide. If I can help…"


"Thanks, Vesna".


What could she do? I don’t even know what I should be doing. I need to clear my head. Three deep breaths. But, despite appearances, I didn’t get the impression in Nicosia that Paulus was suicidal. He seemed more like someone determined to get to the bottom of the murder. Maybe he found out too much?

 


ALLES ROT Translation Chapter 10 (pages 164-166)



Her house is full of hunting trophies.  In some places Cyprus little birds get eaten. Here they are stuffed. An owl stares at me with its glass eyes, a pheasant gazes at a marmot. And then I see something that looks like an oversized rat. I’m invited into the Hunters’ Parlour. The ‘Former Lady Mayoress’ as Mrs Gabler called her, is a dainty little person about eighty years old. She has gone to fetch coffee and liqueurs. Small and large antlers hang on the walls, some with and some without skulls. I have nothing against hunting in the countryside. I know that the Weinviertel area of Lower Austria is regularly overrun by wild boar. And it seems kinder to me that an animal can live freely in the wild but then gets shot, rather than being caged with hundreds or even thousands of fellow sufferers for battery farming of its meat. Even so, I keep my head down, just in case the earthly remains of all the dead creatures in this quiet room decide to avenge themselves.


The liqueur turns out to be made from a spicy red wine, not too sweet, served with filtered coffee which tastes like it was brewed in the seventies. Although I’m sure it’s fresh. Actually, I only really like espresso. So I stick with the liqueur. As a hospitable gesture of solidarity my hostess does the same.


She tells me that Ms Gabler is "the living heart of the village". Naturally, she was a great help to her husband: naturally there were never any ‘irregularities’ in his day.


"How could there be, in such a small village?".


"And now Mayor Reisinger and Treasurer Schwarzenberger are in charge ….".


The delicate little lady smiles at me. "It was lucky Reisinger came along. It was terrible all the quarrelling that happened after my husband died. Although the Wind Park was already a done deal".


"And Schwarzenberger?"


"It’s a good thing when a local businessman gets involved on the council".


"You don’t sound exactly thrilled."


The Former Lady Mayoress takes a sip. "I think the red wine liqueur may be a little too sweet. It needs sugar adding, but not too much. Once I tried adding chilli. But my friends didn’t like it. The ladies prefer it sweet".


I laugh, "I would love to have tried it with chilli".


"As a child I found that a hot pepperoni was always a better treat than a piece of cake. We didn’t have chilli in those days". 


"Schwarzenberger?" I try to bring her back to the subject.


"I knew the father well. He was a hard worker."


"The son must be mid-fifties?"


"How time flies, yes, he must".


"His business doesn’t seem to be doing too well recently".


A watchful look "Who says so?"


I try to sound casual. "I heard it around. And Ms Gabler dropped a hint".


"Well, I suppose it can hardly be kept quiet. A couple of years ago he couldn’t find the cash to pay his employees for 2 or 3 months. But then suddenly everything was back to normal".


"Was that around the time that he entered local politics?"


"Yes, it must have been about the same time. But don’t make the mistake of thinking he could just dip into the council budget. That would have been noticed right away. We did wonder whether he might have had a lucky win at the casino. Or maybe he was speculating with investments."


"In Cyprus?"


The old lady shakes her head. "I have no idea. Maybe. After all, our local building society had a subsidiary in Cyprus. Such a small country and yet so many daughters. I was there once many years ago. I visited the Aphrodite cliffs. I tried to imagine all those daughters there, one after the other appearing out of the spray. A magical place."


I laugh. "And the council? Do they have any little daughter companies?"


The Former Lady Mayoress shakes her head. "My husband would have advised very strongly against that. He would have asked me if he’d planned something like that. We’ve seen how badly that can end. Even that nice lady governor of the province of Salzburg had to resign because of something like that. Although I am sure that others around her lost all that money."


"You are amazingly well informed".


She smiles happily. "First of all, anyone who reads the newspapers can know about it. And secondly, I used to work for a tax consultancy and I’ve always been interested in finance."


"You were a tax adviser?"


"No, a secretary. But in those days we had to know more than they learn now at business school. Not to mention my people skills".


"And what do your people skills tell you about Schwarzenberger?"

 

"That he is messed up. He always wanted to show off because he could sense that nobody really likes him. He needs to appear important and successful. But he’s not particularly clever, not even that cunning. Although he’d like to think he is".

"He tried to split up Dagmar Wieser, the leader of the EU task force for Cyprus and Paulus Reisinger."

"Did he succeed?"

"She’s dead".

 

ALLES ROT Translation Chapter 11 (pages 170-173)

  

I could have a fit! International journalist that I am, I have to fly to Brussels this morning and then take the evening flight back.

On the way to the departure gate not the slightest thought of a possible crash or disaster. Carry-on bag with laptop and my tape recorder. Large handbag with fresh underwear and a toothbrush, just in case I have to stop over. Anyone travelling in such a professional manner couldn’t possibly have a care in the world or be afraid of flying. Then there’s the bus out to the plane. Normally that would worry me - why isn’t the plane docked at the terminal? Have those penny pinchers in the office sought out the cheapest possible budget airline for me? Probably because they’re jealous of my so-called jetsetting! As if I didn’t have enough stress. And then I see it : a plane with propellors. I thought they had all been consigned to museums. Or maybe Africa. Certainly not a major European route. I think about simply walking away. But that’s not easy to do on the tarmac. I could call in sick.

But what would that do to my reputation? Not to mention my appointment with the Commissioner at 4pm at the EU Headquarters, Berlaymont building, number 200, Rue de la Loi. It’s all logged into my schedule on my mobile phone. I’d better stick to the schedule.

But first I have to turn off my phone and then I have to look for something I can hold on tight to. The tiny plane is flung through the clouds. I think of my first flight to Cyprus. This is worse, much worse. And I can’t hear any peculiar noises on this flight because it’s all deafening. I’m sitting next to the wing. Which means I can keep checking if any cracks appear. Or if the propellor stops turning. Or if any parts fall off. Turbulence again. The man next to me groans. No wonder. "We’ll survive" I bravely reassure him. He just shakes his head. He could show a little more self-control. He should follow my example. I don’t even have a second red wine. Not because you have to pay for it on this airline, but because I’ll be doing an interview later. Does that mean my subconscious knows that despite all the evidence to the contrary we might actually arrive safely? Or perhaps it’s just my incorrigible optimism.

Escalators up and down and lots of chocolate shops and all kinds of other shops too. I never imagined the airport at Brussels could be so large. It looks pretty new. When they modernised Vienna airport, they made sure to put in lots of extra walking distance. Perhaps the same architect was at work here too, with a special requirement to make the passengers walk as far as possible. So that Austria and Belgium can keep up with the big boy airports.

I find the train to the central station. I need to buy a ticket from the machine. Put the credit card in - it can’t read it. Put my cash card it - in can’t read that either. The next machine is out of order. I scrabble for coins. Try again and am happy when the machine gives me a ticket. Although you can hardly call it giving. At the central station I have to change to the metro to reach the Schumann

station. I’ve done my research. Between the railway and underground stations there’s a long, brightly lit passage. I feel like I’m having a near-death experience. Going to the light. Or is that just a side effect of the flight? Dirty white mosaic floor, big white tiles on the walls, a few black and white photos of the sights of Brussels, white light overhead. A couple of beggars crouching against the wall. They look real. A busker sings "We shall overcome". I believe him. He has a wonderful voice. Or maybe it’s just the acoustics that are good. In any case, my stomach is starting to settle down again. Too bad I haven’t got time to eat anything. Brussels has a reputation for lovers of good food! Mussels and lobster and the chips that are traditionally fried in beef fat. The best chips I’ve ever eaten though were in Cyprus.

The train rattles in to the station. I look around to see the typical metro passenger. The number of people of colour is high, many of them look like they’ve already done a hard day’s work. Also, you don’t see so many people wearing suits on public transport in Austria. Not as many women in tailored outfits either. Most of them seem to be pushing chic little trolley bags. Travelling for Europe! They make a fearfully hard-working impression.

The Schummann station. Light high spaces, obviously quite new. Some concrete struts showing that the building work isn’t finished yet. I follow others busily heading in the direction shown by an arrow next to the EU wreath of stars symbol. How annoying, can this really be the right way? A narrow little passage with bare concrete steps, temporary panels all in a dirty grey. I go up the steps. A landing. Another steep flight of concrete steps. No one in sight. I stand still. And then comes the most terrible noise - like the roaring of a hungry animal. A really big animal. The surroundings vibrate. My heart is pounding. I look around, I can’t be imagining this. Is it post-traumatic shock from the flight? Maybe I need to see a doctor. I touch the bare concrete wall and the vibration grows stronger. The roaring grows louder, enhanced now by crashing blows. Boom! Boom! Boom! It’s like the banging of an angry giant trying to break into our cave and get us! Or have we already been eaten alive? Added to this symphony I now hear a staccato hammering like a pneumatic drill with a silencer. I can hardly breathe, I push myself from the wall and run up the next lot of steps. Panting. I have to get out of here. Something bad has happened and the place is about to collapse. No structure could withstand this vibration. It will become unstable and tear and then we’ll all be buried under the surface. We’ll be in the history books as victims of the great EU disaster! We’ll be remembered with beautiful marble memorial tablets inscribed with our names somewhere up there, if there’s anything left of the EU after this. Because what I’m going through here could be the start of an apocalypse. A terror attack. Directed at the heart of the EU. Get out! Get out! Don’t just die down here! On the next set of steps there are two Chinese people. They are looking upwards. They speak to each other then run up the next steps. They’ve noticed it too! I’m not imagining it! Or could they be terrorists? Madness! The Chinese do things differently. Now I’m generalising: as if there was such a thing as typical Chinese or typical Austrians or typical Cypriots. No time for semantics. I’m hot on their heels. Will these stairs never end? At last - daylight!

 

 

A ‘Mira Valensky Investigates’ Novel

Hardcover (with dust jacket),

approx. 288 pages., 13,5 x 21 cm

€ [D/A] 19,90 /€ [I] 18,80

ISBN 978-3-85256-648-1

 

No more cooking

„Ausgekocht", the title of my fifth mystery novel, has more than one meaning in German: if a cook has prepared his last dish, because he s found with a knife in his chest, he certainly has "ausgekocht". If somebody is going to kill one famous chef after the other, he is supposed to be "ausgekocht" - something between very clever and hard-boiled...

Mira Valensky, the protagonist in my mystery novels, makes a living as a journalist reporting so called society-events for the "magazine". But her real love is cooking. So there s a dream coming true when she is invited to cook in a restaurants kitchen. The reason for this invitation are some mysterious incidents who bother young chef Billy Winter: salt and sugar are mixed up, a deadly big melon is thrown through the window, 40 local mayors suffer on poisonous mushrooms. And the second cook vanishes without leaving any traces behind.

In daily kitchen-work Mira experiences the importance of "mise en place", the preparation. But also the assaults seem to be prepared very well: there s high pressure in the kitchen, Billy lives in fear to lose her decorative star in the next edition of the "fine food"-guide.
It s the editor of this gourmet-guide who is found dead in the backyard of a bar, a knife between the ribs. And it s Billies knife. But this guy has had enemies galore.
Now it s time for Vesna to step into the picture: she s Mira s cleaning help and she s her friend for all seasons.

More cooks get their roles: Daniel Capriati, shooting star in the Viennese scene, is caught using cheap but spoiled chicken. Is he really just a pretender, as the former big shot Demetz claims - a cook with a severe problem with alcohol. But this guy also hates Billy, his former sous-chef. Billy and Daniel meanwhile are getting fond of each other, leaving Mira a little jealous... But there are tragedies more serious: the host of the most important tv-cooking show is found dead. Is there a madman going to erase the whole cooking-scene? Or is it a madwoman? Who s to be the next dead chef?

From the book:

Over the next few hours an eerie silence descends on the telephone. Isn t there anyone out there who fancies popping in to have a meal with us? And after that review? I mean that magazine s lifestyle page must be read by a good 200,000 people. Whatever, let s get on with it. I take Billy s hand-written note to the computer and put together a menu. Here at the computer I m one up on her. Here at least.

Venison liver mousse with blackberry chilli
*
Truffle semolina dumplings in a clear fungi porcini soup
*
Black pudding soufflé
*
Crayfish en jus with reduced Weinviertler " Cognac"
*
Tomato terrine
*
Pillichsdorfer quails on rollotto (barley risotto)
*
Frau Apfelbaum s classic curd cheese pastry
*
Local and French cheeses
My mouth is watering. I type in the wines beside each course. Then I count up. Makes seven not eight courses. Billy shakes her head, counts for herself as if she didn t trust my ability to count to eight. As if she couldn t rely on anyone for anything. She makes it eight too.
"Better one course too many than one too few," she said. "No idea what I should leave out."

[...]
I m in the process of crossing my fingers once more when the telephone finally rings.
"Yes, of course", I hear Billy say, "that ll be fine." She s almost singing.
"A table for six!", she cries out. It was as if a dam had burst. Every five minutes there s another inquisitive foodie on the line and, by midday, we re fully booked. The others we fob off with a table for the following day, but practically all of them make a booking. That s the trouble with these last minute affairs: Billy s on the phone the whole time, leaving the kitchen to Mahmet, the apprentice, and myself.

[...]
The two wine makers who were there to present their wines turn up, asking questions about everything. They also need far more space in the cold storage room than we had bargained for. How are we going to sort this lot out? Time is flying by. The bread s more difficult to slice than I d thought and I slip, bumping my injured thumb with full force against the edge of the chopping board. For a moment I see a host of stars and the aubergine cubes for the tepid tomato terrine disintegrating in the blanching water. Faster than ever, I slice three more aubergines into half-centimetre cubes, and blanche them for a second or two. That s better, now a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

[...]
The whole place is humming with diners, not loud but full, a bit of life in here at last. A few locals have shown up too, the GP among them. The talk turns to food and wine. Melons flying through windows, vanishing murder weapons and severed cooling pipes are no longer the flavour of the month, at least not the central topic of conversation.
I burn my right wrist on the mould for the black pudding soufflé but there s no time to feel sorry for myself. On we go. By the time we re serving dessert, I realise I haven t sat down or eaten anything for over 14 hours, not even had anything to drink in the last few hours either. I notice Billy s face suddenly turning white and how she struggles to prop herself up against the work surface.
"Are you OK?"
"It was just a second. I get dizzy too from time to time."
"You re having me on," I sneered at her. Got the right tone there. The tension subsides, but there s still another hour to go. Billy grins. I get us two big glasses of soda water. The cold bubbly liquid hits the spot.
Now for the cheese selection. I tell the waiters to check if there s enough bread in the baskets. Billy lays out a choice assortment then sets off on her first tour through the restaurant. I give Mahmet a hand with the cheese and try to give him some encouragement as by now he can hardly put one foot in front of the other. At the same time we clear up the remains of the evening s battlefield. Today, as an exception, we ll only clean the essentials - the rest can wait till tomorrow morning. Once the cheese has been served, I go up to Vesna behind the bar.
"What an evening", she beams, "even I could get to like working in the restaurant business."
I pour myself a glass of Sekt. Maybe not the best thing on a empty stomach but I couldn t resist it.

[...]
Billy lets Mahmet, the apprentice, and some of the waiters go home. Vesna and Hans-Peter polish the cutlery. I fetch the rest of the venison liver mousse from the fridge, collect up all the left-over bread, get a couple of knives and tell Billy to sit down with me. We attack the mousse with a total absence of elegance and without the slightest regard for gourmet protocol, smearing it over the bread, relishing it more than anyone else ever could, while we kill a bottle of Sekt.
"From now on it s plain sailing!", I tell Billy.

[...]
I return to the kitchen for a last look at everything and switch the light off. The stainless steel surfaces give off a matt sheen from the street lights, the fridges a low drone. At Mahmet s place, beside the slicer and the mincer, the large mixer stands in its bowl. It could well fall over so I pick it up along with the bowl, hang it on its fitting and place the bowl in the sink.
I have the impression that Mahmet s also forgotten to clean the mincer. Although we haven t cleaned as thoroughly as usual tonight, it doesn t mean we can leave the mincer with bits of meat stuck all over it. Billy would have a fit if she saw it. Not wanting to sour her happy evening, I switch the light back on and have a look. As I feared. In the container beside the machine, there is still some mince meat. I m about to get rid of it when I catch sight of the feed. Unbelievably, there s still some meat inside. I stick my hand in and touch something that feels both familiar and out of place at the same time. I open my hand and see two still intertwined fingers. The fingers of a man, the nails clean and carefully manicured. The skin is a yellowy white and feels dry and cold. I take it all in, or so it seemed, without any real emotion. When I finally come round, I m sitting on the kitchen floor and notice that Mahmet has also forgotten to clean it. But now that s really neither here nor there.

Caribbean all inclusive

Mira Valensky is dreaming of a relaxing holiday in the Caribbean, instead a new case is waiting for her. Corruption, drug dealers, young activists and the death of two hotel employees are disturbing her vacation.
Palm trees, long sandy beaches and the Caribbean sea - the Viennese journalist Mira Valensky is expecting a romantic holiday, but she is drawn into the conflict between two hotels: instead of overlooking a beautiful bay, the small apartment hotel Golden Sand is looking on the backside of a new luxurious branch of the Pleasures group. But the conflict goes far beyond normal competition. The question of corruption is in the air, and then one of the watchmen from the Pleasures is found dead. Did he deal with drugs or is there another reason for this murder?

The rivalry between the two hotels is coming to a point. On one side there are a cold Swiss hotel manager, his beautiful resident manager and daughter of a local minister and their watchmen; on the other side the French chef Michel from the Golden Sand with his lively wife Bata, several young nature activists, who want to preserve the beautiful bay, and the happy winner of a holiday vacation in the Caribbean, Vesna Krajner, Miras cleaning lady and best friend, are fighting agianst the Pleasure Hotel. In between are the people from St Jacobs, the attractive running athlete Thomas and Mira Valensky, who is getting under suspicion herself.

Mira Valensky is dreaming of a relaxing holiday in the Caribbean, instead a new case is waiting for her. Corruption, drug dealers, young activists and the death of two hotel employees are disturbing her vacation.
Palm trees, long sandy beaches and the Caribbean sea - the Viennese journalist Mira Valensky is expecting a romantic holiday, but she is drawn into the conflict between two hotels: instead of overlooking a beautiful bay, the small apartment hotel Golden Sand is looking on the backside of a new luxurious branch of the Pleasures group. But the conflict goes far beyond normal competition. The question of corruption is in the air, and then one of the watchmen from the Pleasures is found dead. Did he deal with drugs or is there another reason for this murder?

The rivalry between the two hotels is coming to a point. On one side there are a cold Swiss hotel manager, his beautiful resident manager and daughter of a local minister and their watchmen; on the other side the French chef Michel from the Golden Sand with his lively wife Bata, several young nature activists, who want to preserve the beautiful bay, and the happy winner of a holiday vacation in the Caribbean, Vesna Krajner, Miras cleaning lady and best friend, are fighting agianst the Pleasure Hotel. In between are the people from St Jacobs, the attractive running athlete Thomas and Mira Valensky, who is getting under suspicion herself.

 

Wine and death    

Senior reporter Mira Valensky loves good wine. Naturally she jumps at the chance of interviewing the latest big-name wine maker from Austrias Weinviertel region. Hans Berthold is then shot dead while out jogging ... Soon it becomes clear that Mira is not the only one enchanted by his blue eyes.
A wine thriller that flows between big business and the finer things in life - Mira Valensky lives through a heady vintage year and solves a new case with some help from her Bosnian cleaning lady and great friend Vesna Krajner.

Page 54-55
I park my car in front of the village gasthaus, step inside and discretely look around for Aichinger who is the only one who knows me here.
Through the clouds of smoke I see some men at the bar, two of whom are wearing trademark dark blue overalls. Not a single woman in sight. Curious glances.
I sit down at an empty table. I ll have a white wine spritzer please.
The waiter approaches with a knowing smile on his face. I take it you too are from the papers, he asks. So much for the idea of casually listening in or even asking a few questions! I sigh and nod.
„Your colleagues left a quarter of an hour ago." He speaks German very well, but with a Slovakian or maybe even a Czech accent - whatever the difference might be.
„Where are you from?"
He looks at me suspiciously. „From Mikulov, just over the border."
A Czech then, not that it helps me much.
I drink my spritzer and try to glean something from the atmosphere. Pick up scraps of conversation. The men speak in low tones, throwing me the odd stolen glance. I stand up, go to the bar and pay. „Berthold had a lot of enemies in the village - Aichinger thinks". I address my words to the room. At once everything goes quiet.
„He should keep his mouth shut", answers a short little man in a loden jacket.
„Eh", said another in overalls, „but one thing is for sure. None of us would have been shot while we were out jogging. Anyone who wants to be that big is bound to get himself some enemies."
The landlord carries on polishing a beer glass, with such zeal that it flies out of his hand. Following a shrill smash and a stifled curse, many of the customers suddenly start taking. The little man hisses at me: „It doesn t matter what they say, Hans was a good lad. And now plenty go jogging here too. They should be glad that we had him here in the village. Who else would have got the wine business onto its feet? Who"d ever heard of Treberndorf before?"
„That s right", said the landlord.
But a couple of them look as if they wouldn t dare disagree just because I m a journalist. Or of course because it isn t done to speak ill of the dead. Except in the gasthaus. Among friends. When it"s getting late and a few drinks have gone down. „In vino veritas" reads a plaque above the bar. But today I have the feeling I m not going to get to the truth of this.

 

Divorced

A Mira Valensky Novel

War of the roses with a lethal ending: Mira Valensky and Vesna Krajner in the middle of a bitter divorce battle.

Gerda Hofer is a nice colleague from the photo department. But one day Mira Valensky witnesses a fight between Gerda and her husband, a well-known Viennese doctor. And a nasty divorce battle begins. Gerda is found guilty in court, although her marriage was already in ruins when she started having an affair with another man. Her husband receives almost all the money. But it seems that he had a liaison as well with his attractive assistant.  

When Gerda s ex husband is killed in a car accident, the police do not believe in a suicide and start to investigate. Not only Gerda is under suspicion, but also her son, who is loyal to her.

Mira Valensky and and her courageous cleaning lady Vesna Krajner start to trace the murderer on their own ...

 

Russians comming 

EVERYONE WANTS THE RUSSIANS MONEY. BUT OLD FEARS RUN DEEP.

The book At an exclusive ski lodge perched atop Austrias Arlberg Mountain, four Russians flee through the kitchen exit, a bottle of Château Petrus Pomerol in hand. Shortly thereafter, a body turns up on a rooftop terrace overlooking Vienna. The corpse belongs to a rich Russian, who had been tortured and bound to a lounge chair. Viennese journalist Mira Valensky thinks she s seen him somewhere before, but soon she s not so sure.

Who s behind the brutal murder? Unscrupulous Russian businessmen? The Russian mafia? Or desperate Austrians and Germans who have been driven to ruin? And then there s that picturesque little wine village on the Czech border, which the Russians marched into more than sixty years ago. Old fears run deep - but how long does the desire for vengeance simmer?

The oligarch Dolochow had invested lavishly in Austria, making not only friends but plenty of enemies. Sonja, a young Russian interpreter, has seen too much, and when Mira Valensky sets out in search of her in Moscow, she makes some unexpected discoveries that turn her from pursuer into pursued.

 

Under the Knife

A thriller with Mira Valensky

 

AT THE COSMETIC CLINIC, EVERYTHING GOES ACCORDING TO PLAN. BUT THEN A NUN DIES, AND THE SECRET LABORATORY IS UNCOVERED.

The Beauty Oasis in Styrian Vulkanland is where everyone who wants to be young and beautiful meets. Professor Grünwald is famous for his perfectly modelled noses and chemical peels. But then Sister Cordula is found dead in the sauna - cooked on a low heat for three days.

Forty volcanoes were once active in this corner of Austria. And the heat is on for Viennese journalist Mira Valensky and her friend Vesna Krajner. Is there more at stake for Grünwald than his guests  wellbeing? What goes on in the secret laboratory down in the basement of the clinic? And why won t the head of the Hildegard convent reveal everything she knows?

At a secluded farm, hyperactive sheep and pigs flex finely developed muscles. Triathletes from the nearby town win every competition. Around the world, scientists are hunting for a patentable medicine to prolong life. Genetic manipulation could help cure diseases. But what if the only thing that matters is fame and fortune?

Excerpts from Under the Knife

1.

Acetic acid. I feel my palms grow moist.

I try to breathe calmly. The woman is almost unconscious, unable to defend herself. I see the receptacle as though in close-up: brown glass, it holds maybe a litre. I can t, I daren t do anything. I peer through the glass. Carefully, he dips a small rod in the acid. No, please don t! He sears her face, almost with affection. First the left cheek. The woman flinches. From where I m standing I can t hear if she cries out. I want to avert my gaze but I look on, spellbound. Next the nose. I m close enough to see the woman s skin turn pale, almost white. Now she s lying still - too still. I have to get away from here! I didn t hear Professor Grünwald come in. I look at him, panic-stricken. I need to remain calm. That way I ll have more of a chance...

"Trichloroacetic acid," he mumbles and looks on impassively at what happens behind the glass. "We could also use a phenol solution, of course. That would go deeper."

"She s completely pale," I say, trying to keep my breathing under control.

"That s good," he responds, looking at me searchingly. "What about you?"

I shake my head and try to smile, fail. How do I get away from here without losing face? Without losing face. How fitting, Mira.

"A medium depth peel does tired skin the world of good," the professor goes on.

"She s gone quite pale and has stopped moving."

[ 6 ]

"It s called  frosting . The treated skin discolours. We ve put her in a light sleep. -
Are you feeling all right?"

Two searching, intensely blue eyes approach my face.

I shake my head, the room swivels with me. "I just need some fresh air." My voice sounds as though I were talking through a tube. I go to the door, open it. No one stops me.

I m standing in a glaringly bright corridor with marble floors and white walls. The toilet must be back there. An unmarked white door. Blocked. Maybe I m heading in the wrong direction... I hurry back, past the treatment room, nobody in sight. Luckily. There. Really, this time. Toilet. I charge in, turn on the cold water, let it run over my hands, then over my face. I look in the mirror. Damp cheeks, startled eyes, more grey than blue today. Folds on both sides between the nose and the corners of the mouth. The eyelids somewhat swollen, slightly drooping. Two finer lines across the forehead. The hair still thick and short and roughly cut, a little frizzy. Drops of water on my throat. And some wrinkles. A case for Professor Grünwald, master of his profession, talk show star, social luminary, owner of a Maserati. What did he call the chemical burning? "A medium depth peel." In that case I ll take the wrinkles. I drink hungrily from my cupped hand. Calm down a little. I let my imagination run away with itself, that s all. And I m a big coward when it comes to doctors. Dentists: I m usually already panicking in the waiting room. Vaccinations: I ll only have an injection if it s unavoidable.

Letting someone burn my perfectly healthy - albeit somewhat tired - skin, just so it can grow back supposedly younger and smoother, is not my idea of how life should be lived.

Or something I have the stomach for. To say nothing of other "blessings" like liposuction or facelifts. But I m also not here to make myself younger. I m here because I m working on an article on cosmetic surgery. And Professor Grünwald is THE star among a number of people promising new beauty and new happiness and new youth.

A knock at the door. I give a start. Who knocks on the door of a publicly accessible toilet? I hurriedly dry the water from

[ 7 ]

my face with a paper towel. A little powder wouldn t be amiss. Wouldn t even hurt.

"Ms Valensky?" A female voice. The door swings open. An angelic being looks at me. Blonde curls, a delicate frame, not yet twenty-five, a simple white dress. Am I already looking at an example of Professor Grünwald s handiwork? Who knows. When these days apparently even sixteen-year-olds covet a new nose for their birthday. "Are you all right?", the angel asks, a concerned look on her face.

"Yes, thanks. And you?"

"Ah..." The blonde angel seems to reflect. "Thank you," she smiles. "The professor was worried.

Should I take you to your room?"

Any place in one of the bed and breakfasts in this area would be preferable to the beautiful room I m staying in here. But I nod. I m a journalist. The chief reporter. I won t be put off by a little
facial treatment with acid. Just as long as it s not me being operated on. Anyway, direction is not my forte. The Beauty Oasis is quite sprawling, half built into a hill. We enter the lift. There are no mirrors in here. It s probably also used by those who ve just survived an acid attack. Or whose nose is wrapped in bandages.

...

I convey my gratitude and head to reception. Nothing indicates that people are operated on here. I m in the lobby of a luxury hotel. Marble floors here as well, covered by a wine-red, expensive-looking rug. A young woman and a young man smile at me across the reception desk.

...

"Room 301," I say, directing my gaze between the two pairs of eyes.

The woman is quicker. She hands me the key.

"Can I do anything else for you?" she asks. "Have you already seen our current wellness programme, or are you... in preparation?"

I shake my head. No, no preparation. Do I look like I need some work done? She interprets my reaction differently and hands me a thin folder. "In quarter of an hour we have group energetics in the indoor pool. And at 6 p.m. there s yoga breathing on the grass until sunset." Breathing I ve already mastered. I ve been doing that for 48 years.

.....

Page 17

I stand in the lobby in front of the ballroom and think: reception is one floor up, or is it two? (...)

I take the lift, float downwards and step out. Something s not quite right.

No marble. No rugs. Goodness me, I was meant to go up, not down. Am I in the staff quarters? It would be interesting to talk to some of Grünwald s employees. Not now. It s past midnight. Take the lift and head up. The light is dimmer than in the guest wing. I slowly creep along the corridor. Oak doors to staff bedrooms, no labelling. Then a heavy emergency fire door. Does it open? What s behind it?

I push against it. I should turn around. Or not. Tonight Mira wants to find out what goes on in the depths of Professor Grünwald s clinic. I give another push, this time stronger, the door swings open with a groan. More oak doors, the same dim light. French doors with frosted glass and the label "Wellness Area". Odd - I ve already seen the Wellness Area. It s one floor up and next to the swimming pool. Or was it two floors? You shouldn t drink so much wine, Mira. Does Grünwald have a separate treatment area here for his employees? Classy, classy... There was a shadow. And a gleam of light. Grünwald. What if he s lying in wait for me here? Just because I wanted to know how often he s been operated on himself? He threatened me. Absurd. If he attacked every unsympathetic journalist... I think of the woman with the burnt skin and my breathing quickens. Idiotic. Someone s still in the sauna after the late shift. In this weather? It was 30 degrees today. It won t be a good look if somebody finds me here. It looks as though I m snooping around.

But it s just my poor sense of direction... the doors are shoved open so abruptly that one of them bangs into my shoulder. An old lady in a long blue dress looks at me aghast.

"I found her," she gasps. "I don t know what..."

Only then do I understand that it s one of the nuns. Her headdress has slipped down to her neck.

"I have to inform the police."

The air around me grows strangely hot. I look through the open doors. Tiles, mirror, changing cubicle. Maybe the nun had a vision.

[ 19 ]

"Don t go in," the woman says. "The sauna was on.

I don t know for how long. There s nobody else there. She s lying there."

"She?"

"Sister Cordula."

Step by step I pass through the entrance area, enter an oval room with blue tiles, a diving basin with no water and a small bar that looks as though it hasn t been used for some time. The hot air is coming from the door to the sauna, which is ajar. A wooden plank lies across the floor. I step over it and look inside the sauna. In the dim light, a naked woman. She s lying on the floor, her face turned towards the door. Her skin is tinged an unhealthy light pink. Or is this just because nuns are always covered up and never see the sun? How do I know this? Who says it s really a nun? She doesn t look like one. Too young. I notice that the other nun, clearly older, is standing behind me.

"How old was Sister Cordula?" I ask, not lifting my gaze from the naked woman.

"Thirty-eight."

Something drips to the floor from my forehead. I notice that I m soaking wet, I try to wipe the sweat from my brow.

"She was the youngest," the other nun whispers. "What was she doing here? This wing is abandoned."

"And why..."

The old nun shakes her head. "I don t know, I have no idea."

The sweat drips. It s as though my forehead were leaking. I just stand there, incapable of doing anything. Wake up, Mira. Sweating will clear your head of the alcohol. Think. Now.

With a quick movement, I turn off the heat to the sauna.

Then I turn to the nun: "And why did you come here looking for Sister Cordula?"

She shakes her head. "Not here, I ve been looking for her everywhere.

She s been missing for three days. We thought she d gone away, she wasn t happy with her life here anymore. But she took nothing. We take a vow of[ 20 ]
poverty here. And yet there are things that you take when you go away. And she would have said goodbye. I hope."

"For three days? That means that for three days now she might..."

The old nun nods. Then her gaze becomes guarded: "And what are you doing here?"

"I got lost," I respond, and am quite convinced that it s true.

It s the nun who calls the police. To my great surprise, she s pulled a mobile phone from her dress pocket.

"Sister Gabriela of the Hildegard sisters," she days, before giving a clear and brief account of where we are and what we see. I ask her whether we should inform her boss. She responds: "He s too far away and knows anyway."

(...)

Only slowly does the sweating subside. I m still soaked. I hear the lift and snap out of a sort of daze. I should have inspected the crime scene. I recently interviewed a German profiler who has written a fascinating book. Crime scenes reveal a lot. I look around me hastily. Everything looks like it hasn t been touched in months. No glasses on the bar. No towel. Dust. And yet somebody turned on the sauna and locked the nun in there. The door seems to have been boarded shut with a plank. Quick footsteps and suddenly they re here.
The chief inspector from the Feldbach district police command is called Knobloch, and I want to ask him if an unconventional name is a prerequisite for promotion in the police, and whether he knows Zuckerbrot, the head of the first Vienna homicide division, but then Professor Grünwald arrives and glares at us both.

"What are you doing here?" he barks at me.

[ 21 ]

"She came across me when I was in dire need," the Nun responds, and looks at him unabashed.

"I ll ask the questions," says Chief Inspector Knobloch.

(...) A man with shoulder-length grey and brown hair and a bag enters the once-silent Wellness Area. "Where is she," he asks.

Sister Gabriela points to the sauna.

Something dawns on me. If the woman has actually been lying in a heated sauna for three days... "Don t touch her!" I cry.

The man turns to me. "I m allowed to. I m the forensic investigator.

Karl Simatschek."

I shake my head, unsure how best to express myself so quickly. The only thing I can think of is what I ve learnt in Billy s kitchen and from different cookbooks. "She s been roasted at a low temperature!"

"Roasted at a low temperature?" the investigator responds, somewhat puzzled. "You mean cooked slowly on a low heat?"

He seems to know a thing or two about cooking. I nod with relief.

"And if you touch her..."

He nods. "...the meat might fall away from the bone."

...

Page 64

A basement with no access above ground is more than improbable. We enter a somewhat wider concrete passage. Metal doors lead out of it.

And in the torch beam we see that there are even some lights. But we decide against turning them on.

There s nothing to do but search everywhere for a way to reach the abandoned Wellness Area above. I check the time. It s just before one. Vesna tries to open the nearest iron door. It yields. We stand in a room with a nondescript machine. Could be a ventilating system. Silent. Disused. For how long? The next door is blocked.

Behind the third door, pallets, empty boxes, a few cupboards, apparently cleared out. I m ready to move on when Vesna pulls me inside. "You can t see any wall back there. We need light if we want to find the stairs."

I dutifully clamber past her over boxes.

"It leads on further," she whispers. A door. Vesna opens it carefully. It smells weird here. Not good at all. Sewage works, I think. But aren t they outside the building? We listen.

Nothing. The room isn t big and it s nearly empty. I sniff, go over to a shelf on the wall. Locked grey plastic containers. Vesna provides some light, I lift the lid off one and recoil. An awful stench. I hold my breath, feel Vesna s head close to mine. "Body parts," I whisper.

"Or discarded noses, cheeks, sucked out fat."

Vesna trains the beam of her torch inside the container, looks in. "Nonsense," she whispers back, a sound of relief in her voice. I hold my breath and dare to take a closer look myself. Straw. Straw with something inside. "It s droppings,
[ 65 ]
from pigs or mice or something," whispers Vesna. I press the lid back onto the container. Utterly pointless asking Vesna whether she has any idea what this means. Only now do I notice the steel-reinforced door nearby. Droppings as deterrence? As camouflage? And what s in the room back there? Vesna goes over and spins the wheel. That won t get her very far. Anyone who hides something there is careful, very careful. But the door moves, a gap opens. Vesna takes me by the forearm then extinguishes her torch. It s pitch-black. She opens the door, pulls me further, comes to a halt. A quiet scraping noise. The hairs on my neck stand on end. We re not alone here. I hear Vesna breathe. It even makes even her nervous. Torch light again.

First on the floor, then swiftly against the wall. I peer in. Can t fathom what I m looking at here. Vesna screams. (...)

There are dozens of mice in weird plastic containers that look like Ikea storage boxes. In every box a lattice insert holding a feed container and a drinking bottle. (...).

The mice glare at us with their round button eyes in irritation. Whiskers quiver, noses try to pick up the scent.

Lab animals. What we are looking at are obviously lab animals. It s clear that the Professor doesn t want people seeing them. They wouldn t particularly appeal to most of his beauty-worshiping guests. Now Vesna retrieves her camera from the bag. (...)

As it flashes, some of the mice let out a peep.

"They should be let out," I whisper to Vesna.

"Are you mad?" she responds too loudly, clearly disgusted.

(...) Vesna s in more of a hurry to leave the room than I am. We close the steel-reinforced door, are back in the store room, see another door, open it cautiously. Nothing else can scare us.

The beam moves to a washbasin, then to an operating table in the middle of the room, steel, shining eerily in the torch light. Also large lamps. Some cabinets with monitors. Apparently for monitoring, maybe also during anaesthesia. A secret operating theatre? Are the two "procedures" requested from El Salvador to be carried out here?
I m sure the Professor doesn t bring his other guests here. Right next to it, operating facilities in miniature.

Everything tiny, almost like an operating table in a doll s house.

It dawns on me: it s for mice. (...)

What if Sister Cordula had found out something about this secret laboratory? (...)

Another door and behind it a larger room with two rows of tables, strange boxes on them, several computers nearby. And oversized microscopes. Two of them look more like telescopes. Hutches emitting a slight noise. Refrigerators.

Freezers. Are there dead mice bodies in there? Just mice bodies? Washbasin. Filing cabinets with roller shutters. We have to get away from here. We ve seen enough for tonight. Tomorrow I ll discuss it with the forensic investigator. He should tell me if he has an explanation for it. Maybe everything will look different in the light of day. Vesna is standing at the next door.

Doesn t she ever give up? A narrow room, a lift. The underground complex ends here.
But where does the lift lead?

278 p., ISBN 978-3-85256-575-0

13th in the Mira Valensky series of thrillers - 2011