The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr


Pages: 338

Published: 1999, (2007 in English)
Translated from the German by John Brownjohn

Lost in Translation, German reading challenge Support your local library challenge


This novel remained at the top of the best selling list in Germany  for 15 months and it is easy to see why. It is a gripping psychological thriller – a real page turner.

Cora Bender is a woman with a harrowing past. Married with a young son, she lives a quiet, outwardly “normal” life.

One summer’s day while at the park with her family, she launches an apparently unprovoked frenzied attack on a man in a group nearby, stabbing him to death.

Insistent that she is guilty, Cora wants to sign a full confession straight away and be sent off to await her judgment. What she can’t bring herself to do is answer any but the most superficial questions. What appears to the police investigators to be an open and shut case doesn’t ring quite true for the Chief officer Rudolph Grovian. Sensing there is something not quite right about it all, he starts his own investigation and begins to delve into Cora’s past.

What he uncovers and what we learn from Cora herself (the story switches from first to third person) becomes darker and more chilling as the book progresses. I had to remind myself that this was fiction, it seemed very real and the portrayal of Cora and her reactions and behaviours was mesmerising. What was true? What was manipulation? Was her switch from frightened child to vicious attacker real or a ploy?

Ultimately this captivating book is about trauma and guilt and the devastating consequences when suppressed memories resurface.

And it has a great twist that I didn’t see coming.

This type of book wouldn’t usually be my first choice but having read this I will definitely look out for other books by this author. Hopefully there will be others translated into English.


One response to “The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr

  1. Pingback: German Reading Challenge – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

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