x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Mattress House: an inconclusive study on corporal punishment

Paulus Hochgatterer's suspense novel features a shocking conclusion that makes it a worthy read.

The Mattress House / Paulus Hochgatterer / Maclehose Press / Dh102
The Mattress House / Paulus Hochgatterer / Maclehose Press / Dh102

Perhaps it really takes an insider to accurately depict the true psychological nature of crime and, perhaps more importantly, to validate if the act is a crime at all. Apart from being an award-winning writer - having scooped the 2009 European Literature Prize for The Sweetness of Life - Paulus Hochgatterer is also a child psychiatrist by profession.

His follow-up novel delves into the controversial topic of corporal punishment, though the results don't turn out as clear as one would expect from a healthcare expert. An interesting theme to note is the eerie depiction of the author's native Austria, a country more renowned for theatre than thrillers.

Billed as "a Kovacs and Horn investigation", Hochgatterer turns the usual mental exercise on its head as he not only has his protagonists on the trail of a series of assaults on local schoolchildren but dives deep into the pair's own personal caverns of darkness. Though the brusque narration takes a bit of adjusting to, it is the fine attention to detail, both concrete and abstract, that makes the journey to the shocking conclusion worth the effort.