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The Sinner

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  7,414 ratings  ·  849 reviews
The basis for the highly anticipated limited series on USA starring Jessica Biel premiering August 2nd, The Sinner is an internationally bestselling psychological thriller by Germany's Patricia Highsmith

On a sunny summer afternoon by the lake, Cora Bender stabs a man to death. Why? What would cause this quiet, kind young mother to stab a complete stranger in the throat ove
Paperback, media tie-in, 387 pages
Published July 25th 2017 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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April If you count the time that he was in the bathroom and she walked in on him and he let her watch him for...who knows how long. Then YES!

I don't think h…more
If you count the time that he was in the bathroom and she walked in on him and he let her watch him for...who knows how long. Then YES!

I don't think he was inappropriately touching her every time she wet the bed. She was only misunderstanding what the magazine meant by "wet" and she was very sheltered and naive about sex.

But what I do think was messed up is when her Father basically said to his wife that if she doesn't let him move back into her room that he'll end up sleeping with Cora. Umm...I guess I don't know how things are in Germany but...that's still your daughter bro.

So yeah, I feel like they had a weirdness that could really mess a kid up and could be a form of abuse but they never crossed any PHYSICAL sexual lines.

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Average rating 3.33  · 
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Apr 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a review of the book, The Sinner. I have not, nor will I, watch the television version loosely based on this novel.

The Sinner is one of the darkest, most psychologically disturbing stories I ever have read and yet there never was a moment that I considered putting down this horrifying, captivating tale.

The book begins very blandly with a young woman who is quite boring, who is bored with life, her husband - although he is a good husband she says - her entire world has become unbearable
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, european
As you can tell from the blurb above, THE SINNER is a whydunnit, as opposed to a whodunnit book, although that's way too simplistic a description. When Cora Bender stabs a man to death in front of family, friends, and a crowded park, nobody realises that she was originally planning to commit suicide. Bender is obviously not in a good place in her life, despite outward appearances. Rejected wholeheartedly by her husband immediately after the attack, it seems an open-and-shut case, which may only ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't know what to say about this book.

I'm giving it 3 Stars because that's what I usually give books I'm not sure about. I didn't hate it but I also didn't love it. I spent the majority of this book not having one clue what was happening. I don't know if maybe something was lost in translation, this book was translated from German.

I don't know.

I was still completely hooked and considered it a fast read. Im happy I read it and I now plan on watching the tv show. Hopefully the show will be eas
Alisha Marie
Jan 13, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The Sinner was just a mass jumble of confusion for me. There's really no other way to put it. I tend to like mysteries as long as they're compelling and not predictable. The Sinner was compelling, so a check for that. And it wasn't predictable. However, I can't give that one a check considering that the only reason it wasn't predictable was because it was so hard to tell what the hell was going on.

The narration in this book was all over the place. You had numerous flashbacks told in Cora's first
The Sinner is a complex and intense psychological crime novel which highlights the unpredictable nature of repressed memories when combined with underlying violent tendencies.

Having watched the Netflix series, I was interested to see how much the adaptation deviated from the book. The answer? Not much.

That said, author Petra Hammesfahr's book does provide a richer narrative with the focus near exclusive on Cora, everything else, including Policeman Grovian, and Cora's husband is mostly backgro
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-w-mars
As soon as I heard of this book and read the synopsis it just called to me. A seemingly perfectly normal woman goes to the lake with her family for a day of fun and relaxation only she ends up stabbing a man to death. Sign me up!

Then I started reading all the mixed reviews. People REALLY disliked this so I became hesitant to grab it. It happened to be available through C/W MARS so I downloaded it and still I debated if I wanted to start it. I finally caved and opened it up. I'm glad I did. I th
Read Harder Challenge 2018

#19. A book of genre fiction in translation: Mystery Thriller

Watching the TV series I was completely absorbed by Jessica Biel’s performance and by all the craziness that happened to her character as it was being unravelled. My first reaction after finishing all of the 8 episodes was to go back to the beginning and watch it again to catch all of the nuances I might have missed the first time around. Looking into it I found out it was an adaptation of a 1999 domestic thri
⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

My reviews and (maybe) some other random thoughts can also be seen at


I feel like I was not reading the same book as the people that rated The Sinner at a 4 or 5, lol.

This book really didn't take me that long to read, but it felt like forever for some reason.

This has got to be the weirdest book that I have read this year. Cora's ramblings with the police, her attorney, and the shrink w
Diane S ☔
Nov 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark and disturbing read, but so well written.
Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm Myrtle Beach
This is one of the very few instances where I think the TV version was way better than the book.

I'm not sure if it's because I DID know the story going in, or the fact that it was translated, or at the end of the day, the book just wasn't that great.

this was like a slap in the frigging face.
Emily Browne
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gone Girl meets Girl on a Train meets Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.
Tea Jovanović
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is well writen and should be read before watching TV series...

Still without a publisher in Serbia
Cora goes to the lakeside to enjoy the sun and water with her husband and young son. There she inexplicitly stabs a man to death. There are witnesses and Cora’s own confession but the police commissioner does his own investigation into Cora’s past, uncovering secrets even Cora has trouble remembering.

I, like many others, was pulled in by the trailer for the USA mini-series starring Jessica Biel. I figured the book had to be good to have been made into a TV series. But it really dragged for me an
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
I honestly don't understand why this book is rated so low and what everyone has been whining about - this was a good story!
Yeah, the translation may have been rough sometimes but if you're going to read a German author you're gonna have to accept that before going in.

I probably would have liked this even more if I didn't watch the show when it first came out because I already knew how it was going to end. In my defense, I had absolutely no clue the show was a book adaption until months after I w
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating story. I saw the preview for the new USA show and wanted to give the book a try. I've never read Petra Hammesfahr before, but will definitely be looking for more. It's hard to imagine a book that begins with a murder in the first few chapters and spends the rest of the time delving into the reasons behind it could be so riveting, but I really couldn't put it down. Cora is an incredibly complex character and it's so easy to become one of the many experts around her, trying to s ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really liked the beginning of this novel, you get a quick snap shot of Cora’s life and then you’re thrown into the thick of it and Cora is murdering a man. Unfortunately, it all seemed to go downhill from there.

I have to say, I’m usually very lucky when it comes to reading translated fiction – the narration always flows, and I never feel anything was lost in translation. However, with The Sinner, I can’t help but feel that an awful lot was lost in translation as this novel felt very disjointed
This book is a mess.

But I couldn't stop reading it.

I read it in 3 days and I'm generally a slow reader. I have slow comprehension.

At first, I thought it was poor writing that Cora sounded like a child in her flashbacks and in her adult conversations but as I got a better grasp of the timeline I realized it was intentional. She was an immature child on the inside and she spoke and acted as one. It was quite annoying.

This book is just one long run on sentence.

But I HAD to know what happened!

Laurel Bradley
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One hot July day, twenty-four year old Cora Bender decides to commit suicide. Her plan is simple, go to the beach with her husband and two year old son, swim out deep, and drown. Her death would stop the nightmares and silence the horrible song that plays in her head. Most importantly, it would keep her from remembering snippets of the "black time" in her life. But she isn't able to kill herself. Before she has the chance to swim out into deep water, her son wants an apple. As she peels it for h ...more
Marybeth Wright
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The German writer Petra Hammesfahr has been likened to Patricia Highsmith, and this novel has all the darkness and psychosis of the latter’s oeuvre. A young mother, Cora Bender, seemingly content with her husband and little son, suddenly stabs out at a man in a beach as he makes out with his wife, and kills him brutally. She then admits her crime to the policemen who show up and requests them not to waste time investigating the murder. But the investigating detective is baffled by her statement ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
She liked life too, but hers had ceased to be a life. It had never been one, strictly speaking. And then it occurred to her how to end it.

I struggle with books that have been translated because I don't know if they haven't translated well, or if I'm just not into the book.

I found The Sinner fairly interesting to start with. We open with Cora Bender, who has decided to take her own life because her existence has ceased to be a life. But when she goes to take her own life, she ends up instead taki
Jessica Reads & Rambles
Giving up on this. How they made such a fantastically complex TV show from the basis of such a erratic and confused novel is beyond me. I'm going to blame a lot of my problems with this on the translation. It's not awful, but most of the characters are. I'm so pleased they made Cora and her husband more likeable and more conflicted characters than the novel originally has them. The TV show also does a better job at unfolding the layers of this complex story in a more gripping way. Not sure if th ...more
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Enthralling Stars
* * * * * Spoiler Free-A Netflix Review
It is the weekend and as my public service announcement, if you haven't watched the series, The Sinner then you have missed out. I just finished all three "seasons" and, boy oh boy, this was something very different.

As you see, in the first season titled Cora you are immediately sucked in. Jessica Biel starred and also was the executive producer for all 23 episodes.
The series was made in 2017 and aired on USA Network. The next season, J
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect that this book will not be for everyone but it is worth the effort.
The beginning of this story finds us meeting Cora bender a young woman in a claustrophobic marriage who is starting to exhibit strange behaviours particularly around her husband.
They go to a local lido for a picnic and while suicidal thoughts haunt Cora a couple who are flaunting their love and playing a tape trigger a violent reaction from Cora.
The remainder of the book focuses on why Cora committed the crime. The stor
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hum, what can I say about this book...psychological for sure. To read this novel through you really have to be "in the zone". I think, I restated it 3, maybe 4 times, before it caught.
From other reviews, I felt this novel had an unusual draw. Once I settled into the rhythm it was a ride. Where was Cora was heading? What is she hoping to accomplish or avoid?
The path of this journey is anything but predictable.
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an impressive and compelling book. A traumatically abused woman from a very creepy dysfunctional family who has had severe head injuries gradually reveals her story and why she apparently randomly killed a man. Not exactly light summer reading, though.
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr was a bestseller and a critical success in Germany. Now that I have read it, courtesy of the Bitter Lemon Press, I can understand why.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the park a woman, Cora Bender, stabs a man in front of her family and his friends. The wound is fatal.

Cora is taken into custody. She acknowledges her guilt but will say nothing more. It could have all ended there, but it doesn’t. Because Police Commissioner Rudolf Grovian isn’t satisfied and isn’t prep
Jan 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
PROTAGONIST: Cora Bender, ordinary woman
SETTING: Germany
SERIES: Standalone

It should have been an open-and-shut case. Cora Bender has gone on a family picnic with her husband and young son. Unbeknownst to them, she is planning to commit suicide. Foiled in her effort to drown herself, she is resigned to remaining among the living. However, as she is contemplating her failure, she hears the people next to them playing a song that has horrific significance to her. Losing control, she take
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Adult psychological thriller written within last 3 years, a woman on vacation at lake kills a man. [s] 7 33 Mar 17, 2019 02:20AM  
Tysons Corner Rea...: The Sinner 7 18 Nov 12, 2017 03:54PM  
Spoilers** Can we talk about show vs book? 3 129 Sep 06, 2017 08:40AM  
content 1 71 Aug 20, 2009 06:36AM  

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Hailed as Germany’s Patricia Highsmith, Petra Hammesfahr has written more than twenty crime and suspense novels, and also writes scripts for film and television. She has won numerous literary prizes, including the Crime Prize of Wiesbaden and the Rhineland Literary Prize. Her breakthrough novel, The Sinner, was a major critical and commercial success internationally, including in Germany, where it ...more

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