Thursday, June 16, 2016
Review of Black Ice by Hans Werner Kettenbach (Bitter Lemon Press, 2006; German 2001)
Black Ice is a somewhat curious read, centring on the suspicious death of Erica Wallman and its investigation by one of her employees, Scholten. There are three principal characters in the story, each of whom are not easy to like. Scholten is a bitter, sarcastic, scheming, lazy misogynist, who is always finding ways to steal time and visit brothels. His wife, Hilde, is a straight-laced, nagging, hypochondriac who feels she’s married beneath herself. Scholten’s new boss, Wallman, is a caustic bully. The tale is told from Scholten’s perspective and traces his attempt to discover what really happened when Erica tumbled to her death. At the heart of the tale is an ingenious solution, but the telling is a relatively slow paced affair as Scholten struggles to make progress with his investigation and dithers about how to use the circumstantial evidence he discovers. The resolution is quite sudden and open ended. At the time the ending annoyed me, but after a few days reflection I think it suited the piece. Usually a story has a character to root for and a neat denouement, but Black Ice has neither. In that sense, it’s a brave piece of writing, but not one that I found particularly enjoyable.