This is a murder story, a psychological thriller, and something more.
Fear English language cover design by Sandy Cull via text Publishing.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but perhaps this edition of Fear represents an exception to this maxim. After all, cover designers are among some of the lesser-known heroes of the book publishing industry. The cover of the original German novel merely displayed the word ‘Angst’ five times in red on a black background. But the this English translation has an outstandingly apt cover, designed by award-winning Sandy Cull, which skilfully expresses the atmosphere and vibe of Fear.
This is a murder story, a psychological thriller, and something more. It explores family relationships and the lengths to which members of a family might go to protect their loved ones and justify their actions.
The story is told in first person by Randolph Tiefenthaler, husband of Rebecca and father of young Fay and Paul. Randolph is a moderately successful architect and a self-conscious member of the prosperous middle-class of today’s Germany. In order to explain himself and the situation that led to the crux of this novel, he tells the story of his childhood and adolescence, recounts his relationships with his parents and siblings at length, and describes his marital ups and downs.
He is not averse to telling a white lie for convenience but his story about his personal life and feelings rings true, even though at times he questions the validity of his memory. As the reader follows him along there are times when the temptation to hit him, or at least give him a good talking-to, is overwhelming. Sometimes his younger brother, Bruno, does that for you.
It adds to the insight of his character to read about how Randolph became exempted from military service as a conscientious objector, perhaps because of his hatred of guns – a reaction to his father’s love of those weapons.
It gives some light relief to an essentially dark story that when eating in an upmarket restaurant, Randolph describes the menu in detail:
'Sea urchin with Sichuan pepper and pineapple, then abalone, then sea bass with Alba truffles and twenty-year-old rice wine, then partridge with Chinese honey and sprouts, then Kobe beef with beetroot and Périgord truffles and finally caramel au beurre salt with passionfruit and Japanese chestnuts – each course with its own wine selected by the sommelier.'
In the acknowledgements we learn that the menu comes from a leading Berlin restaurant.
There are also some outstanding descriptions of dinner party conversations gone awry. And, of course, there is a villain – the tenant of the downstairs flat, one Dieter Tiberius, a man who had an unfortunate childhood and who is the cause of the problems encountered by Randolph and his family.
Once the book is read the reader may well ask herself or himself what she or he would have done in similar circumstances. And that may well be a very difficult question to answer honestly.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit translated by Imogen Taylor
English language cover design by Sandy Cull
Text publication date: 30 January 2017
Categories: Fiction Translated Crime & Thriller
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level