Things that my children have ruined number 467: I no longer have the time, patience or energy to read actual books that often. This is a brutal realisation to me, considering that I spent most of my formative years in my pink NHS specs, sucking my thumb, buried in lit. Aged about 12, I went to the library one Saturday morning, took out four books, and read them all cover to cover by the following morning. True story – ask my mum, she loves that one.
Dabbles into book reading have seen my tolerance and preferred genre migrate away from anything involving romance, multiple characters and a sad ending. I just haven’t got the spare emotion mate, I’m highly strung as it is. Thrillers, unsolved murders, psychopaths and nomads are now right up my strasse. Oh, I love an angry victim hell bent on revenge with a caffeine dependency.
So when Mumsnet asked me to review Melanie Raabe’s debut novel The Trap, I thought I’d call some matchsticks up to duty and force my tired peepers into getting back in the book game. The thriller, originally written in German and translated into English, focuses around the reclusive Linda Conrads, who is a successful author despite fostering a minimal public presence. The reader learns that she discovered the body of her murdered sister some twelve years previously, the trauma of which led her to seek permanent refuge and privacy within her home.
The murderer has never been identified, but Linda witnessed him flee the scene. Years later, Victor Lenzen is a successful journalist living in close proximity to her house. Linda sees him on television and recognises him instantly, vowing to finally bring him to justice. Famously media shy, she decides to write a new novel to mirror the events of the murder, and grant Victor her only press interview to promote the book. In the lead up to the interview, she sets about developing her mental and physical strength in order to unnerve and interrogate him into a confession.
Linda’s parallel novel is interwoven throughout the main text, which creates an interesting effect of simultaneously delivering the events of the past alongside the resulting consequences. In addition, the singular perspective of the author ensures that by the time the reader meets Victor, he is a mysterious enigma of juxtapositions and preconceptions.
The basis of the plot is unique enough to keep the pages turning, but in parts the novel is slightly too formulaic and the main character isn’t particularly likeable. Despite a lengthy buildup, by the time the day of the interview dawns, we still don’t have a great deal of insight into her persona, which made it difficult for me to resonate with her motives. Still, Raabe has constructed the novel with tension and curiosity, and at times her portrayal of a tortured mind is captivating.