German author Raabe puts together an intricately constructed story featuring a woman haunted by her sister’s death.
Linda Conrads, a bestselling author who writes lyrical prose, is tormented by a dark and terrible burden: her sister, Anna, was murdered more than a decade ago. Linda caught a glimpse of her sister’s killer and has been unable to cope with life ever since. She retreated to a home that’s both a fortress and a hideaway and hasn’t left it in years, stirring much speculation among her readers. Then one night Linda recognizes a well-known television journalist as her sister’s killer and decides to set a trap for him. She immerses herself in research and uncharacteristically writes a crime thriller in which she describes her sister’s murder. Then she invites the man to her home to interview her; it’s an invitation he cannot turn down—the press has been dying to interview the reclusive author—and the game to extract a confession out of him begins. Raabe has a good idea: take a reclusive author and have her dangle herself as bait, but despite the intriguing premise, the novel’s hard to read for many reasons. The dialogue is ponderous and clunky. The characters are never fully developed. There’s a lot of padding and verbal throat-clearing before Raabe gets to the long game, and when she does, readers will be confounded at the execution of Linda’s plan, which includes writing an entire novel in order to trap the man she thinks of as the bad guy. There's also a story within the story, as the reader also has to plough through Linda’s lackluster novel, which is interwoven with the main tale. The result is anything but thrilling.
Despite the nicely done twists and turns, this melodramatic mess is hard to love.