The Femme Fatale Hypothesis

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More accurately a love triptych than triangle, The Femme Fatale Hypothesis is the story of one spring in 2015 when three people form intimate bonds forged in the fires of their respective tribulations. As Rose Geddes’s lung cancer progresses toward its inexorable end and her husband’s ability to care for her diminishes, their widowed neighbor, June Danhill, stumbles into the middle of their intersecting crises. June’s only son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren have recently moved to the West Coast. She embraces the opportunity to distract herself from her loneliness by helping to care for the Geddeses. But it isn’t long before June realizes that Rose wants more from her than she is willing to give. Love and loss, family secrets, visiting vultures, the Memorial Park boys, a long-forgotten keepsake, morphine versus fentanyl, and the sexual cannibalism of the false garden mantid all fuel this psychological thriller that tests the thin line between mercy and murder.

Praise for The Femme Fatale Hypothesis

“In his elegantly crafted and touching debut novel, David R. Roth uses three points of view to walk us through the lives of a long-married couple facing death and their younger neighbor, who is drawn into their heavily weighted world as a bug is drawn into a spider’s web. Roth effectively plumbs both the intimacy of a long marriage and its sinister potential, moving us gently toward his startling conclusion.”

—Janet Benton, author of Lilli De Jong

The Femme Fatale Hypothesis is an expertly tuned and suspenseful story crafted with great intelligence and skill, a slow-burn book that moves deftly to its incendiary ending. Roth is a careful craftsman and a bold provocateur.”
—Keija Parssinen, author of The Ruins of Us and The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

“A perfect story beautifully written. The thoughtful interplay between husband, wife, and neighbor hides secret inner worlds. The tension between what people say and what they keep private builds into a heartbreaking and wonderful drama. David Roth reminds us the minutia of everyday life is never inconsequential.”
—Terese Brasen, author of Kama

“David Roth delivers a crushing love story involving two captivating characters, a science professor and a psychologist, married nearly fifty years, grappling with an ambiguous line between euthanasia and murder. A widow neighbor forms a dramatic triangle with her caretaking, empathy, and sexual tension. Roth is masterful at weaving science, philosophy, and literature throughout to raise life’s essential questions in this thoroughly gripping novel.”
—Jeffrey Greene, author of French Spirits

“A luminously written and impeccably well-crafted novel that explores the deepest human mysteries: love and death.In David R. Roth’s suburban Marrsville, eccentric Kelsey, cold-eyed Rose and tenderhearted June form a captivating trio, three uniquely compelling characters who lead the reader on a journey that culminates in a stunning and cathartic climax. The interplay of ordinary chores and extraordinary insights, science and religion, morality and mortality, is rendered with exquisite sensitivity and startling humor. The Femme Fatale Hypothesis has a profound resonance in this time when we are all contemplating life’s ultimate questions.”
—Jake Lamar, author of Bourgeois Blues and Rendezvous Eighteenth

“If you love reading, and especially if you’ve been yearning to remember why you love reading, don’t miss The Femme Fatale Hypothesis. Here we’re given, finally, a contemporary debut novel free of sanctimony, bravely alive with humanizing complexity, aswirl with genuine feeling rather than sentimentalism, indelible in its themes and images, and generously engrossing in its plot. It’s all here. Your readerly mind and heart will overflow with gratitude to David R. Roth.”

-M. Allen Cunningham, author of Q&APerpetua’s Kin, and The Green Age of Asher Witherow

“David Roth’s The Femme Fatale Hypothesis is a moving contemplation of the storms and passions of aging, often overlooked by a culture that worships youth. Within the simple architecture of suburban neighbors (a widow on one side, a husband and his dying wife on the other), Roth crafts a tale of Shakespearean depth and drama while delving into the mysteries of free will and the limits of love. Roth’s characters are richly drawn, utterly recognizable yet full of surprises. Rose, house-bound and terminally ill, maintains a loving but unsentimental relationship with Kelsey, her husband of 47 years. As his wife fades, Kelsey’s once great intellect dims as well, a failing he attempts to gloss over with affectionate, often hokey, witticisms and the pretense of completing an academic paper. The couple considers June, their neighbor of 20 years, more acquaintance than friend. But early on in the novel, kind-hearted June is pulled into the quiet, piercing drama of Rose’s looming death and Kelsey’s departing mind. In a testament to his craft, Roth rachets up the tension while maintaining a pace that fosters  keen, almost tender, observation of the characters and their suburban habitat; not unlike the careful attention Kelsey, an entomologist, lavishes on his beloved false garden mantid (Pseudomantis albofimbriata), the subject of his floundering paper. The result is fine storytelling that invites readers to explore the Big Questions: how much choice do we really have, given that we are bound by mortality and biology? Who are we, if not our minds and our bodies? What does it mean to love another? To die with dignity? As with most worthwhile inquiries, we are left with more questions than answers. The Femme Fatale Hypothesis is an honest, sometimes confronting, story of loss and change — of people, of towns, of the natural world. And though Rose, a lover of poetry, doesn’t pick up Dylan Thomas in the course of the novel, readers will sense the force, and heroism, of her “rage against the dying of the light.”
—Rebecca Baum, author of Lifelike Creatures

The Femme Fatale Hypothesis is involving and thought-provoking—a poignant and truthful meditation on dying, love, and grief.”
—Ian Lewis, author of The Ballad of Billy Bean

“David Roth brings a scientist’s sensibility and toolbox to his storytelling, and his are rare instruments.  He has a preternatural ability to trap moments in characters’ lives and preserve them in words that amplify and crystalize human emotion.  There are so many sentences in this book to be dissected, admired and marveled at.  The sum total is a story that feels both self-evident and astonishing.”
—Nomi Eve, author of Henna House and <em)The Family Orchard, a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection

“Roth’s radiant debut novel explores love and loss in this thoughtful meditation on what it means to be alive—and to die.”
—Alison Wellford, author of Indolence

“David Roth’s The Femme Fatale Hypothesis feels like the antidote for a culture numbed by excess, clamor, and shock-value. Here is a story that offers a necessary, yet understated, grace; that pulls quietly at a new sole-string with every turn. Here is writing informed by an archeology as human as it is humane. Add to that a dose of humor that is playful, witty, occasionally life-saving. The scientific turn is multi-dexterous. Expect to hear a good deal more from this level-hearted writer.”
—Robert Antoni, author of As Flies to Whatless Boys, recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Cut Guavas

“In David Roth’s evocative novel, The Femme Fatale Hypothesis, Rose Geddes is dying and yet the story is not about death but life. Recruiting their neighbor, June, to bear witness, Rose and her husband, Kelsey, sail toward the inevitable on a calm sea of habits and schedules even though love, regret, and desire still roil beneath the surface. Throughout, Roth’s prose is both assured and haunting, the ink of a poet in the pen of a novelist. It is a small book in size, but the author is a big talent.”
—Steven Mayfield, award-winning author of Treasure of the Blue Whale and the upcoming Delphic Oracle U.S.A.