cover image Sand


Wolfgang Herrndorf, trans. from the German by Tim Mohr. NYRB Classics, $17.95 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-68137-201-3

The murders of four European members of a hippie commune in a North African oasis drive this meandering thriller set in 1972 from German author Herrndorf (1965–2013). French detectives Polidorio and Canisades quickly arrest a young man who lived near the commune with his large family, but the lazy and incompetent detectives, relegated to this backwater in the remains of the French empire, obviously have the wrong person. Meanwhile, an amnesiac wanders out of the desert after being attacked by a group of men quarreling over a suitcase full of practically worthless East German money. He staggers into a gas station, where he meets Helen Gliese, a cosmetics saleswoman who offers to help him find his identity and gives him a temporary name, Carl. What Helen and Carl have to do with the murders isn’t immediately clear. The characters’ stories occasionally intertwine until they come together in an unsatisfying ending that only the most patient reader will persist in reaching. A big hit in Germany, this will have limited appeal to an American audience. (June)