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The Femme Fatale Hypothesis

A contemporary suburban-Gothic tale about a woman with a ferocious desire to defy death, her husband’s increasingly futile attempt to deny death, and their reluctant caretaker’s dueling crises of flagging faith and the loss of a sense of place in the world. An illuminatingly dark romance steeped in love, loss, a stolen keepsake, the sexual cannibalism of the false garden mantid, and the thin line between mercy and murder. Use the player below to hear an excerpt. (Additional samples available in Press & Media.)

"Scarsville" - chapter sample read by Martha Roth and Bill Irwin
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What readers are saying...

No one is innocent in The Femme Fatale Hypothesis, no one is to blame. These are three people brought together by the most challenging of life’s experiences, to an ending that is surprising, inevitable, devastating.

New York Journal of Books

Roth deftly crafts…. a novel about love, suburban life, and who has the right to make the choices between life and death... realistic and character-driven…check this one out.


Roth’s captivating novel involves a curious friendship between Kelsey and Rose Geddes and their next-door neighbor, June.... With emotion, intellect, and sinuous finesse, The Femme Fatale Hypothesis leads to an unnerving yet fulfilling conclusion. 

Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews 

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&A, Perpetua’s Kin and The Green Age of Asher Witherow


For me, reading this novel brings the feeling you sometimes get in the theatre: That you’re not sure you should be watching these people – but that you can't look away.  And that a sure-handed storyteller offers you a way forward.

Bill Irwin, Tony Award-winning actor/playwright/director

In his elegantly crafted and touching debut novel, David 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 luminously written and impeccably well-crafted novel that explores the deepest human mysteries: love and death. 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


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 The Family Orchard, a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection


Roth delivers a crushing love story involving two captivating characters... grappling with an ambiguous line between euthanasia and murder.  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

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 Boysrecognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Cut Guavas

A perfect story beautifully written. 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

One man, two women, one mate-devouring female insect. The Femme Fatale Hypothesis travels boldly into a world that literature has left unexplored way too long: the land where couples face the true meaning of “til death do us part,” where old age doesn’t so much resolve one’s fiercest desires as bring them bubbling to the top. This is a captivating, page-turning story that pits science against God and one side of the tracks against the other, told through the triangle of Kelsey, Rose and June, each an extraordinary life-force behind an ordinary façade—a story that is ultimately a celebration of life even as the inevitable  looms. Jan Alexander, author of Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization

A moving contemplation of the storms and passions of aging, often overlooked by a culture that worships youth. 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 and yet full of surprises. 

Rebecca Baum, author of Likfelike Creatures

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 Delphic Oracle U.S.A.

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