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Tuesday, June 19, 2018


A tale which explores much more than just a horrible and frightening experience. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer)

These days I read fewer and fewer thrillers, finding the vast majority of them boringly predictable and unbelievable. So it was a relief that Dirk Kurbjuweit’s novel, Fear, is neither of those things. Kurbjuweit is a senior German journalist, who has drawn on his own experience of being stalked to create Fear, a tale which explores much more than just a horrible and frightening experience.

Fear, which is translated by Imogen Taylor, opens with the narrator, Randolph, visiting his elderly silent father in prison where he is serving time for murdering Dieter Tiberius, his son’s downstairs neighbour who had been stalking Randolph’s wife and accusing the couple of abusing their children. So right at the beginning, we know – more or less – the end.

Despite the narrator telling the reader how normal and happy his life has been from his Berlin childhood at the height of the Cold War to his marriage to Rebecca, a different picture begins to emerge. His parents had suffered in the Second World War and his withdrawn father always went about armed. Randolph, a successful architect, is withdrawn in his turn, often preferring to eat alone in smart restaurants to either taking Rebecca with him, or being at home with her and their children. Slowly, reasons emerge.

Kurbjuweit cleverly builds a creeping sense of unease. But it’s not the kind of edge-of-your-seat fear that has you wondering what Tiberius will do next and what has made a sad loner into a potential, or at least perceived, threat. It’s the horror of a family in disintegration, doubting each other – what goes on when one or other parent is alone with the children? And then there is the unwillingness and inability of the state to deal with a stalker who does nothing overt but turns the tables with his accusations. Randolph and Rebecca may know they are innocent, but proving a negative is well-nigh impossible, sometimes even to yourself. And they are not squeaky-clean good citizens.

The denouement, when it comes, is not entirely unexpected, but the strength of this novel is in its depiction of individuals, what they do and what drives them to do it. Ordinary people in an extraordinary situation are not so ordinary after all. - Margaret von Klemperer