cover image The Stronger Sex

The Stronger Sex

Hans Werner Kettenbach, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-904738-67-1

Kettenbach (David's Revenge) takes a deep, and sometimes disturbing, look at the karmic consequences of a lifetime of depravity in this fusion of psychological suspense and crime fiction. Herbert Klofft, an aging and gravely ill industrialist, stands accused of wrongfully dismissing a female employee, Katharina Fuchs, with whom he'd been having an affair for more than a decade. The lawyer defending Klofft, 29-year-old Alexander Zabel, soon gets entangled in his own ethical quagmire as he finds himself sexually attracted to Klofft's elderly but alluring wife, Cilly. But as Zabel finds out more about his ill-tempered client, a self-professed adulterer and ruthless businessman, he begins to see Klofft%E2%80%94and himself%E2%80%94in a different existential light. While the legal issue is far from intriguing and the pacing not exactly breakneck, Kettenbach's highly contemplative prose makes this cerebral and melancholic exploration into morality and mortality a powerful and haunting read. (June)