The Trap by Melanie Raabe
Grand Central Publishing, 2016; 352 pp
Reviewed by CHarlie Riccardelli
Linda Conrads, the narrator of Melanie Raabe’s debut thriller The Trap, is a woman in crisis. Though she’s earned widespread acclaim as a writer, she’s spent the last eleven years living in seclusion at her home following the tragic murder of her sister. Linda has little hope in life until one day she thinks she recognizes the face of the man she saw fleeing the crime scene the night her sister died, a reporter named Lenzen. To trap him (and stay with me on this), Linda sets up an elaborate plot to write a novel mirroring the murder, have the killer in the novel be similar to Lenzen, publish the novel, request Lenzen do an exclusive interview with Linda about the book, then somehow wile a confession from him once he’s in her home.
Sound ridiculous? It is. The Trap, translated from German, is an overly silly thriller without much forward momentum. Much of the book’s length is dedicated to planning and conducting the interview, with Linda treating the charade like a cat-and-mouse game, but once Lenzen arrives, it feels more like cat-and-cat, and I don’t mean cunning cats, but bored, tired cats that are vaguely territorial if only they could get up from their nap. The Trap is overloaded with arch dialogue, especially in the exhaustingly long interview scene, though these moments are almost a relief from the excerpts from Linda’s novel, rambling, dull passages the enlighten us in no way. When someone late in the book mentions, “The press hates the book, by the way,” I could sympathize.
The Trap has an outlandish premise, but if it were more dynamically written or even had developed the characters beyond their archetypes, the book could have packed more of a punch. Many of great thrillers need the prose more than the plot. Sadly, The Trap falls short in both departments.