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by Melanie Raabe and Imogen Taylor, trans.
Spiderline, May 2016
376 pages
$19.95 CAD
ISBN: 1487000774

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When she was a young woman, Linda Conrads walked into her sister's flat to discover her sister murdered and a man fleeing the scene. The two looked at one another for a long moment, and Linda never forgot what she had seen. Since then, Linda, now thirty-eight, has not left her house, a very comfortable villa on the shores of Lake Starnberg where she lives alone with her dog. She is not, however, exactly a recluse, entertaining frequent visitors and relying on a young woman for errands and shopping. In the intervening years, Linda has become a famous and successful novelist, but one who never engages in the usual promotional tours or even grants interviews.

All this changes one day when, waking from a doze in front of the television, she catches sight of the man she'd seen leaving her sister's flat. It is a glimpse that galvanizes Linda and she immediately sets to work to set a trap for the man, a well-known journalist. It is an elaborate set-up, one that involves her writing a detective novel, a genre she has never attempted before, as bait to entrap the killer.

THE TRAP is a first novel, and one that is astonishingly technically accomplished. The reader is made privy to Linda's thoughts in a first-person narrative stream and allowed to read excerpts from the novel she has written as part of her trap. Linda's mind is not the most balanced and she is handicapped by her inability to leave the house. The reader is never quite certain how far to credit her identification of the murderer - after all, it all took place so long ago and the glimpse she got of the man was relatively brief.

Nevertheless, for someone who never ventures forth into the great wide world, Linda knows how to make the internet work for her and she is able to erect an ingenious and elaborate set-up into which she hopes to entice her sister's murderer. How this plan succeeds and how it fails is what generates the considerable suspense in the middle part of the book, which depends on Linda's unreliability as a narrator. But when it comes to the resolution, things fall apart a bit and we are left with a conclusion that is just a bit too tidy to be satisfactory. Oddly, Linda's editor puts his finger on the trouble near the end of the book. It's rather a strange intervention and one can only wonder if Raabe herself had her doubts. But on the whole, this is a page turner and more than one seasoned writer has had problems writing herself out of a book. A first novelist can be forgiven.

The book is ably translated by Imogen Taylor into only slightly British-accented English. She does an admirable job of differentiating the main novel, narrated by Linda, and Linda's own (and inferior) novel.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, June 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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