Translated from German by Anthea Bell (2005)
Jupp Scholten is in a foul mood. He is attending the funeral of Erica Wallmann, whom he has known for 15 years. She dies after falling from the steps of her weekend villa. Was it an accident, suicide, or murder? Scholten is firmly convinced of the latter, and it sticks in his craw that the deceased’s husband is playing the grieving widower. Which is rich, considering his mistress is pregnant …
Scholten swears he won’t get away with it. When Wallmann asks him to do some odd jobs at the villa, Scholten turns into a supersleuth. Despite Wallmann’s watertight alibi, he devises a theory for how Erica’s fall could have been arranged. He cannot understand why the police have failed to do the same.
In the meantime, Kettenbach provides an insight into Scholten’s home life with Hilde. Shall I summarise his wife in one word? Sheesh! Really. If ever there was a woman who could drive a man to murder …
What I really enjoyed about Kettenbach’s novel was observing the development of my feelings towards Scholten because the rather sympathetic crusader at the beginning of the novel turns out to be a rather coarse, crude, drunk frequenter of brothels. Yes, maybe Hilde drives him to it, nevertheless the shine wears off him. The question is whether he becomes irredeemable.
The twist isn’t difficult to anticipate. What is surprising is how long Scholten takes to go there. It’s as though his subconscious is leading him, but also as though it consciously wants to undo him. Are you following? We are in classic Patricia Highsmith territory. Need I say more?
Yes, Black Ice somewhat dated – people simply don’t drink and drive like that anymore. But human psychology hasn’t changed at the same pace, and the fun is spotting the miscalculation that leads to the final unravelling. I didn’t. As I result I shall be tracking down the other two Kettenbachs published by Bitter Lemon Press.