cover image The Sinner

The Sinner

Petra Hammesfahr, , trans. from the German by John Brownjohn. . Bitter Lemon, $14.95 (338pp) ISBN 978-1-904738-25-1

Hammesfahr’s darkly depressing yet engrossing crime novel, a bestseller in Germany, examines the price of survival for two young girls growing up in a small German community. Police commissioner Rudolf Grovian is assigned the case of Cora Bender, a young woman who murders an apparent stranger in a crowded park. The local constabulary deems it an open and shut case, but Grovian, intrigued by Cora’s strange behavior, pursues his own investigation. Cora reveals the bizarre circumstances of her claustrophobic family life, from her mother’s relentless blaming of Cora for stealing her life to Cora’s own complicated relationship with her disabled younger sister. The mixture of both first- and third-person perspectives and the explicit discussions of religious and sexual obsessions set this work apart from standard psychological fare. Dubbed Germany’s answer to Patricia Highsmith, Hammesfahr should win new American fans with this English translation. (Feb.)