Fear (2017) – Dirk Kurbjuweit

Hitting trade paperback on Canadian book shelves this week is this engrossing thriller penned by German author Dirk Kurbjuweit. A captivating tale the novel explores themes of love, family, perceptions of masculinity, and the rule of law.

The novel opens with a murder.

And a confession.

For months Randolph Tiefenthaler and his wife, Rebecca and two children have lived in terror of the man in the basement apartment of a house that they live in. With no physical or violent altercations to report, the authorities are of no help as the tenant, Dieter Tiberius leaves erotic letters and poems for Rebecca, accuses both parents of sexual abuse towards their children, and files his own complaints with the police.

How much will one man take, and how can a self-described pacifist protect his family?

Unable to oust Dieter from his apartment legally, the story moves back and forth in time, sharing moments of Randolph’s childhood, and the omnipresent fear that has been with him since his youth, first of his father, with his massive collection of guns, and now of Dieter.

This same father, who, while not estranged from Randolph, shares a strained relationship with his son, is the confessor, defending Randolph’s family and serving the jail term for it.

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As Randolph seeks isolation, and then rediscovers his wife and family through Dieter’s actions, questions of goodness arising from evil are presented, as well as the moral and ethical quandaries of taking the law into your own hands.

The novel is engrossing, moving, and puts you in the Tiefenthaler home, even as Dieter’s accusations work their way into Randolph’s and Rebecca’s minds. They could never do such things to their children, but Dieter’s words conjure images that befoul and trouble the relationship, and the individuals.

A solid and thrilling story, Kurbjuweit’s text, translated by Imogen Taylor, Randolph’s struggles are laid out as he tells us the story from his perspective, even as he hints at themes of forgiveness and rediscovery of familial love.

I raced through this one, one page eagerly leading to the next, chapter following chapter until the events were laid out before me, leaving me stunned, gutted, and clinging to the wisp of hope the ending of the book promises.

Kurbjuweit is an engaging, informative author whose words and storytelling bring you right into the narrative, and guides you around each new terror and delight.

Fear is available on 21st October at all book stores, and is published by House of Anansi Press – do yourself a favour, pick this one up, and decide what you would do in Randolph’s place.

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