Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit - Published by Orion Books in 2107 - ISBN: 978-1-4091-7202-4
This novel, originally written in the German language and entitled Angst, was a bestseller in Germany and was adapted into a TV movie. The author is deputy editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, a current affairs magazine. The story is loosely based on a disturbing episode lasting eight months some 14 years earlier when the author, his wife and children were subjected to a campaign of terror perpetrated by a neighbour who occupied the basement flat in Berlin below them. At first amiable and seemingly harmless, Dieter, the troublesome neighbour in the book, becomes a peeping tom, seeks to gain access to the family’s flat via the garden, repeatedly lurks in the communal hall lying in wait for the author’s wife and haranguing and harassing her, plasters the walls with notes falsely accusing the couple of sexually abusing their children and hounds them with letters and poems containing murder fantasies. Randolph, the main character and the narrator, is a law abiding, decent, middle-class man. The author states that Randolph is not he but “he is a version of me.” Dieter, the adversary, is of a different social class to those in the building. From the outset the reader learns that Randolph’s father aged seventy-seven, a firearms enthusiast and superb marksman is serving a long custodial sentence having been convicted of Dieter’s manslaughter. The story then shunts back and forth between Randolph’s childhood, his relationship with his father and the present day when the relationship between Randolph and his wife edges almost to crumbling point. Randolph approaches lawyers, social services and the police but is informed that a loophole in the law means that nothing can be done about Dieter. Rendered helpless, it is then that Randolph turns to his father for help. The book sets an even pace and the characters are developed and credible even low-life Dieter. The flitting between past and present is skilfully and seamlessly done and the dialogue flows naturally. The book concludes with a cunning twist one never sees coming. It is a well constructed, thoughtful, gripping, albeit uncomfortable, read that will linger in the memory for a long time.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax