cover image What We Are Made Of

What We Are Made Of

Thomas Hettche, trans. from the German by Shaun Whiteside, Picador (IPG, dist.), $12.95 paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-330-45208-3

Hettche's enigmatic suspense novel gets off to a promising start with the arrival of German biographer Niklas Kalf and his pregnant wife, Liz, in New York City on the eve of the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. At a dinner hosted by Kalf's American editor, the editor relates a cryptic story about a 13-year-old girl from a well-to-do family imprisoned for slashing a man to death in Central Park. A few days after the dinner, Liz disappears from their Manhattan hotel room. The writer subsequently learns that Liz's continued well-being hinges on his providing information about the subject of his latest project, an obscure German physicist who immigrated to the U.S. in 1941. As Kalf becomes strangely unengaged from his wife's plight, the narrative loses its intensity, never to regain it. (Oct.)