Sebastian Fitzek is a master of the sharp psychological thriller, pulling the reader into the middle of something, only to provide a massive twist to discombobulate anyone trying to follow along.
In this piece, there are layers of intrigue set against a fast-paced plot and a time limited narrative, where a killer has a handful of hostages and is broadcasting live over Berlin’s radio waves. With a criminal psychologist tasked with diffusing things, she has her own issues and finds the added pressure all too much. Explosive and chilling at the same time. Perhaps Fitzek’s best novel to date!
During the morning show on one of Berlin’s most popular radio programs, a tour for winning listeners goes sideways when one among them decides to take the group hostage. He wants his demands broadcast live, on-air and is willing to use the show’s popular games to get what he wants. Listeners must answer when called and recite a precise phrase or someone will die.
All the while, renowned criminal psychologist, Ira Samin, is preparing to die. She can no longer handle the pain that has befallen her, but wants things done a certain way. When she is called into work as a hostage negotiator, her suicide plan must be temporarily shelved. Ira works to get to know the hostage taker a little better and takes his one demand very seriously, “find my fiancée and bring her to me.”
While Ira works to unravel a tense situation, she must also wrestle with some troubling news. It would seem the aforementioned fiancée has died months ago in an automobile accident. However, the hostage-taker will hear none of it. He knows she is alive and demands that she be brought to him. Ira does all she can, only to realize that there is another reason that she must end the hostage taking right away. While Ira works through her own issues, all of Germany is on high alert, awaiting the next call and hoping someone will pick up and say the right thing. If not, things could get much worse, live for all to hear.
While I only recently discovered the magic of Sebastian Fitzek, I cannot get enough of his writing. Twisted and highly entertaining, one can never decipher what twists await the reader as the story progresses. He is surely a master at his craft and has pulled me in with each of the novels I’ve read. There are so many layers to the stories that the reader must pay close attention, or risk being left behind.
Ira Samin is a well-developed and troubled protagonist, perfectly cast for this story. Her personal issues almost drown out the need for professionalism throughout the piece, but this only adds depth to an already intense story. Ira has come to terms with the end of her life, but seems almost put out that she cannot do what she wants most, to die, until she stops a madman from killing others. There is much the reader discovers about Ira as the story progresses, all of which is essential to her own larger narrative.
Fitzek opens the novel with a seemingly odd tangent, only to force the reader to realize that this is the crux of the novel. The narrative pushes forward and offers deceptive twists almost from the outset, keeping the reader guessing what is to come and how it will all play out. Using short chapters, Fitzek teases the reader to ‘read just a little more’ and captures their attention with ease. Chilling and not quite what it all seems, Fitzek delivers yet again, with an English translation that is as smooth as ever, not distrusting the flow whatsoever. I can only hope there are more stories like this to come, as I am ready and eager to see what’s next.
Kudos, Mr. Fitzek, for another winner. Where you get all these ideas is beyond me, but I am not complaining in the least.