Sleepless

Romy Hausmann, trans. from the German by Jamie Bulloch. Flatiron, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-82479-0

Early in this grim psychological thriller from German author Hausmann (Dear Child), Berlin legal assistant Nadja Kulka is visited at her office by former coworker Laura van Hoven. The distraught Laura is looking for her lawyer husband, Gero. Since Gero isn’t due back until evening, a lonely Nadja drives Laura home. In the van Hovens’ living room lies Laura’s lover, Aron Brucksätt, whom Laura killed during an argument. Nadja doesn’t want Laura’s four-year-old daughter to grow up motherless, so instead of calling the police, she agrees to transport Aron to a Spreewald cabin, where she and Laura will rendezvous to dig his grave. Upon arriving, Nadja finds not Laura, but an irate Gero—and the situation only deteriorates. Hausmann intercuts Nadja’s present-day narration with letters recounting her traumatic childhood and scenes detailing a 2014 murder and the resulting trial. Though the mystery of how these story lines intersect provides tension and propulsion, the soapy, convoluted denouement fails to satisfy. Two-dimensional characters further disappoint. Fans will hope for better next time. (Oct.)
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