Good King Sauerkraut He, Robot

This is my "different" mystery novel.

For one thing, it's a reversal -- the reader knows who the perpetrator is before the police do. So the book is not so much a whodunit as it is a howdotheygethim. For another thing, the leading character isn't exactly lovable.

The story is about a robot-designer who is not only clumsy in his personal relationships but physically clumsy as well. In fact, his carelessness causes the deaths of two of his co-workers. It was pure accident both times; but instead of owning up to his part in the mishaps, he ducks his responsibility and claims to know nothing about what happened -- which declaration starts the police looking for a murderer. The second half of the book is a cat-and-mouse game as Marian Larch and her partner Ivan Malecki come closer and closer to the truth.

Some readers felt uneasy with this book, and there was talk in my topic on Genie about why that should be. The consensus was that that a number of readers want to have one and only one way to respond to a character (like him or don't like him), and this is not possible with my robot designer. There's no malice in him -- he doesn't want to harm anyone. His intentions are good and even honorable. But you can't really like a character so self-absorbed that he causes two people to die through sheer inattentiveness. This ambivalent response is exactly what I was aiming for when I wrote the character.

So, if you feel you need to identify with the leading character in order to derive pleasure from a story...well, you have your work cut out for you. But if you're willing to let a little aesthetic distance develop, you ought to get a kick out of Sauerkraut (there's some very dark humor in the book). Stand back from the story, distance yourself; that's the way it was written to be read.

Drood Review of Mystery:

"Paul's creativity has a strong flavor of `What will she think of next?'....We know from her writing that Barbara Paul is brilliant and widely read and enjoys word play...The title character in Good King Sauerkraut is far from sympathetic, but readers are bound to be sorry for him--though Paul certainly is not....Barbara Paul writes to please herself; in so doing she engages, amuses, educates, and often entrances her readers....Her worst work is better than average; her best is superb."


N.Y.: Scribner, 1989, ISBN 0-684-19089-3
London: Piatkus [as King of Misrule], 1990, ISBN 1-85018-085-7
Milano: Mondadori [as Distrazione fatale], 1990
München: R. Piper Verlag, 1991, ISBN 3-492-15573-1
Houston: Scrivenery Press, 1999, ISBN 1-893818-01-2


Page created 26 June 1995; last updated 15 December 2002.