Translated from German by Sandra Harper
Published by Vintage
Konrad Lang is losing his memory to Alzheimer’s. As his recent memories fade, earlier ones come to the fore. This has Elvira Koch worried. There are secrets buried in Konrad’s mind which, if he unearths, could bring down her business empire.
Konrad has lived with the Koch family since he was a boy. Elvira took him in as a child after his mother Anna, who worked as a maid in the Koch house, left to marry a Nazi officer. Konrad was raised with Elvira’s stepson Thomas, and everything that Thomas did, Konrad did too, including attending the same schools. But Konrad’s place was always made clear: he was a companion, never part of the family.
As an adult, Konrad becomes an alcoholic. When he is left in charge of the family’s holiday villa, his carelessness results in a fire that destroys it. Elvira pensions him off. She organizes an apartment for him in Zurich and gives him a monthly allowance. Konrad manages to pull himself together, falls in love, and stops drinking.
Then he starts to lose his memory and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It gets to a point when he does not recognize his girlfriend anymore. But he is beginning to recall events from his childhood in vivid detail—and this is exactly what Elvira is afraid of. She knows that if he goes back far enough, he will remember things that will bring down the Koch family.
Konrad, however, has an ally: Simone, the young wife of Thomas’s son. Simone, who knows what it is like to be used by the Kochs, insists on bringing Konrad to the guest house on the family premises and taking care of him there. But the only thing Elvira wants is for Konrad to die before any of her secrets are revealed.
This is a quick read and Martin Suter keeps up the pace. The reader discovers the truth gradually, as Simone and Konrad, start to put the pieces together. As the memories come into focus, everything begins to make sense. And the reveal is worth the wait. I enjoyed this book.
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