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by Martin Suter
Arcadia, July 2007
300 pages
11.99 GBP
ISBN: 190514752X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sonia Frey's life has gone pear-shaped. Her husband is in a secure institution after trying to kill her, his parents want her to withdraw the charges against him, a bad acid trip has played havoc with her senses, and she's stuck in a gloomy flat with only budgie Pavarotti for company.

She's desperate to make a new start, so she takes a job as a physiotherapist in a newly-renovated hotel in a remote Swiss Alpine village. Business is slow, but glamorous owner Barbara Peters doesn't seem particularly worried.

So Sonia tries to settle in to her new environment. But a series of bizarre incidents unsettles her, and she starts to wonder if there is a link to the old Devil of Milan folk legend.

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL is a masterpiece of tight, understated writing where less is definitely more. It has echoes of Patricia Highsmith, but is leavened by dry humour.

And author Martin Suter has an eye for the cameo role. While Sonia feels a bit lightweight at times, there are a host of neatly-drawn supporting characters, including the night porter with a fondness for the booze, Sonia's physio colleagues gay Manuel and religious nutter Frau Felix and the obnoxious elderly guest Frau Professor Kummer.

This is at least the third crime novel I've read where the main character has synesthesia, where the senses are cross-wired. In A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL, Sonia can feel smells and see sounds. In this case it serves to knock her off-kilter and to add to the paranoia that she feels in this strange new environment.

Suter, who has written five books, won the Friedrich-Glauser prize for the best new crime novel this year. And A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL has echoes of Glauser's books with its focus on remote rural communities and eccentric locals with something to hide.

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL is an unusual and appealing suspense novel which mixes slightly off-beat characterisation and tight plotting with a vivid portrayal of the Alpine community.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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