Beneath the Mountain - Luca D’Andrea

Ok, so I read this book in Spanish and the name was La sustancia del mal, which sort of translates to The substance of evil (or something along those lines…) and I have to say, I didn't get it (the Spanish title…), it was mentioned once, and still I didn't get it. At least the English title "Beneath the Mountain" is more identifiable in the story than the Spanish one but well, in the end it doesn’t matter very much.

Starting off with this, I have to say that even though it was a very thrilling story in the end I didn’t like it very much… But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book! It was one of those stories that capture the reader and compels to continue reading until you actually know exactly what’s going on, which I believe is something good in a book! haha but the end (ugh… you’ll find out).

On with it !!

**** SPOILERS AHEAD****

The first (mmmmh) 3 or 4 pages are non-sence… you sort of understand them AFTER you finish the book (or at least have read two thirds of it) and you remember to think about the book beginning… if you finish and forget about it, well you forget! (duh!)

So skipping the weird beginning, the story begins with a guy named Jeremiah Salinger who is a mmm script writer for documentaries, but who actually haven’t done any good one until he has the great idea of making one about rock music, but not about the musicians but the people who travel around with the musicians (very famous ones) equipment. And it becomes so popular it manages to secure 4, very popular, seasons.

In between the filming of one of those documentaries he meets a girl named Annelise who eventually becomes his wife, and together they have a little daughter named Clara.

I have to add that Salinger is half-german, and Annelise is italian (but speaks german as well as italian, because she used to live in a part of Italy that used to belong to Germany) so they both speak English, German and Italian (at least for Annelise) and they raise Clara to speak the 3 languages.

At one point, they decide to travel to Annelise’s birth town, a place called Siebenhoch. Which is a very small traditional town, that lives on Turism, specially, the one that comes from mountain climbing at place called Bletterbach (which incidentally, turnes out to be an UNESCO protected site, I just googled it!). They installed themselves at a house owned by Annelise’s father, Werner.

I don’t remember how long they were intending to remain in the town, but those plans were shattered when Salinger discovered a new subject for a documentary in the Rescue Forces in charge of the mountain’s climbers, specially the ones involving the red helicopter. (haha for some reason it was important…)

Salinger friend, Mike (the camera man) came from the US to film the heroic deeds of the skilled mountain rescuers… until, one day Mike was feeling not ok and Salinger decided to go in his place; and on that precise day, while Salinger was down inside an ice crack where the rescuers retrieved an injured woman the helicopter had an accident where all the passengers were killed, except Salinger (who was trapped below).

He, of course, is rescued (by another team) but ends up very traumatized by the whole affair. He’s prescribed sleeping pills and pain killers (? or something like that, valium, the book says), which he doesn’t take, at all!! And well, he doesn’t get better… but in the end he finds some relief in his daughter (very very smart little girl) who frequently asks for museum trips, fossil information, etc. In one of their expeditions he hears of a certain massacre that has never been solved that pinches his curiosity.

He later turns to his father-in-law for asnwers and he tells him the story of Kurt, Evi and Markus (skilled climbers) who go to the mountain (Siebenhoch) for some reason we never know and are caught in a very ugly storm, but there they’re killed by dismemberment (ugly indeed!), Werner tells him that he was in the party that went to search for them (instigated by Kurt’s father) and eventually found them all dead and with no hint of who could’ve done the horrible deed.

After that, Werner tells Salinger that all the involved became very traumatized in their own way… Werner left the city, Max became the forest police and town vigilante, Gunther became an alcoholic and Kurt’s Father went crazy and killed his wife.

Salinger, who was in desperate need of a way ouf of his depression/trauma, becomes very obsessed with this case and discretely (or so he thinks) begins to gather information from every sourse he can find.

That way he learnes about Max and his wife, who are not pleased by him poking around; Gunther’s older brother, the richest man on town; and Brigitte, Gunther’s old girlfriend who is also an alcoholic.

From Max and his wife, he learns of a telegram warning Evi not to go to the mountain and how Max became obsessed with the case for 30 years because of it; also after a big discussion Max decides to show Salinger his case file, and the pictures of the murder and Salinger becomes very sick because of the cruelty of it. Max shows him how he has a file for everyone in town and most of them (including himself) are declared inocent because they weren’t close the site of the incident.

As for Gunther old brother, a man named Manfred, Salinger learns that he owns many hotels in the vicinity as well as the Turist Center in the way up to the mountain. Since Evi was a prodigy geologist, she was often requested to make fail proof testing for construction projects, and one of the projects she was against was from Manfred, and this Salinger finds while searching around in the house. With this he decides of a possible reason for the murder.

Brigitte, Gunther’s old gilfriend, only tells Salinger that he was hiding some secrets he couldn’t tell nobody, but he didn’t tell them to her either. When Salinger leanrs she’s receiving money from Manfred, and after he starts suspecting him of the murder, he drops obvious hints to Brigitte ultimately causing her to commit suicide.

While he’s making all his questionings and suspicious wanderings, Annelise becomes very angry at Salinger for not paying attention to their family, and threatens to leave him if he doesn’t drop it… but since he’s obsessed he eventually continues with it… but one day, his daughter Clara has an ugly accident in a sleigh Salinger gave her.

Fortunately, she’s fine goes home with a very big bump in the head, but once at home she asks a funny question to Salinger, and that’s if wether she should ask forgiveness from her grandpa because she was poking around in his stuff because she had saw a heart-shaped box, a doll (whith which she wanted to play) and a bunch of pictures of ‘broken zombies’, so she made grandpa angry and shortly after she had the accident (because she felt everyone treated her like a child… something that she acctually was! she’s supposed to be 5 y-o).

Salinger imediately makes the connection and decides to go search for the box while Werner is not home, and he finds it! There, he learns that he had been lied to; why? because inside the box there’s a picture of a family, and the parents in the family are the same people dismembered in the other pictures… but most shocking of all, the parents have a small baby with them, and the baby turnes out to be Salinger’s own wife!

Werner returns without Salinger noticeing, and asks him to go talk with him to the kitchen (or living room, I dont recall…), there he tells him that he had lied to him, that when they found the bodies they also find Oscar (the guy who had sent Evi the telegram that Max found) who had the baby in his hands and was muttering incoherently, when they arrive they take the baby from Oscar and the 4 men decide to apply their own justice and abandon the man in a deep cave. (now we realized another reason why the 4 guys became so traumatized, not only did they saw a horrible crime scene, they also killed someone)

For some weird reason after this, Salinger decides to go to the cave where they dropped Oscar and eventually finds him there… (I don’t really get why… but is not so important I guess)

Later in the documentary release, Salinger gets so drunk that he slips out to his wife about everything he had found out and she decides to check his computer for his notes and… of course she finds them… there she learnes the whole truth. She, for some reason, goes to her father and asks him to take her to the place where the whole thing happened.

When Salinger discoveres that Annelise is not there in the house he calls Max to take him and Clara to Werner’s place… later to the Mountain (because they didn’t foudn Werner home)… and decide to climb up (along with the 5 y-o kid) to the place massacre happened.

*this is when things didn’t make much sense to me anymore…*

Once reunited, Salinger makes som weird connections and realizes that Oscar (the abandoned dead guy) was not trying to kill the baby but instead was trying to protect it. Because somebody else must’ve know of her existance, Kurt’s best friend… Max. After confronting him with this reasoning, Max eventually spats that he liked Evi and declared his love for her but she laughed at him (aparently that’s enough reason to kill and dismember 3 people). In my opinion, Max was already very damaged, because his grandma made him go down to the caves and swim around them as ‘punishment’ or something like that… so well apparently he was very crazy.

Finally, we learn that actually Max knew that they were going to go to the mountain and out-ran them by going through the caves and then tortured and killed them, but then Oscar appeared and rescued the baby girl (we never know if they acctually talked or discussed anything, if we do then I didn’t paid attention to it), so yeah, Oscar appers and he aparently scares Max into going away and go to his house, until Kurt’s father arrives with the news of the 3 people going into the mountain in a storm… so Max decides to play along with his them and helps to try to find and rescue them.

The proble is that when they arrive, they’re already dead and with Oscar there. So here’s something I want to point out, Werner says it took them about a day and a half, so apparently Oscar and the baby are VERY VERY strong, because they managed to survive for one and a half days in the open while a unpredictable nasty storm is going on in a very cold mountain… I don’t buy that… the guy was unstable and the baby was about 3 or 4 months old...

EITHER WAY, Max confesses, and Salinger tells Annelise to go away with Clara but of course they don’t, Max kills Werner (but really, he was already dying from cancer) and tries to go and kill Salinger and his family, but at this point the storm (because there WAS a storm going on, from before they arrived to the mountain) or the water breakes through and take them in the current harming them very badly but at least they survive, but Max unfortunately (or fortunately?) does not...

After that, thery’re rescued, I don’t know if they say anything about the whole incident but in the end the threat is gone… so they kind of live happily ever after but with a few traumas… haha

So, see? it was so promising!! And then an ending like that… well anyway… is ok! I enjoyed at least 90% of the book very much! and it was very easy to read haha so that’s also very good 😊..

Lets see what will be next !

See you!

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