Fitzek, Sebastian - 'Therapy' (translated by Sally-Ann Spencer)
This is the first book from Sebastian Fitzek, and a best-seller in Germany, where it was first published in 2006, and is a psychological thriller featuring psychiatrist Dr Viktor Larenz.
At the opening of the novel, he has taken his twelve-year-old daughter to see an allergy specialist. His daughter has been ill for the past eleven months, but nothing that he, or his wife does, appears to be able to help. Dr Grohlke, the allergy specialist, is a doctor of last resort, the last specialist in a long line of consultations. Viktor watches his daughter enter the doctor's office by herself, and patiently waits outside in the waiting room. But after some time, when his daughter fails to re-emerge, he starts to panic, tests the door only to discover it locked, and that his daughter Josy is missing. Moreover, on questioning Dr Grohlke, he claims he hasn't seen Josy for over a year. Where has she gone? An intensive search fails to find her. And Viktor's career and marriage suffer as a result of the worry and uncertainty over what happened to Josy.
Moving on a few years later, Viktor finds himself strapped to a bed in the Berlin-Wedding clinic psychosomatic clinic, talking to Dr Martin Roth, three weeks after his medication was stopped. He starts to tell a story. A story of how, after his daughter went missing and his wife moved out, he went to the Island of Parkum, to write an article about his experiences, and met a dangerous woman named Alice Glass. Alice claimed to be a famous children's novelist, for whom the characters in her books, once imagined and written, came to life. She says she has tracked down Viktor, and wants him to treat her, and asks him to give her some counseling sessions. She tells him that one of her characters was a young girl, who was sick, and who walked out of a doctor's office in order to disappear. That she met her, and travelled about with her, and that is frightened to write the next part of the story in case something bad is about to happen to her. Could this be Josy? How does the woman know about her, and is it possible that she know where Josy is now? The mayor of the island, who is looking out for Viktor, claims that the woman is dangerous, and the Viktor has to be careful. He warns Viktor to avoid contact with her. But Viktor is desperate to find out what has happened to Josy, and so an uneasy consultation begins.
Alice seems to have an uncanny ability to pick up Viktor's thoughts and feelings, and somehow does seem to know something about Josy and what happened to her. Her descriptions are spookily accurate and Viktor can't help but want to know more. After a somewhat slow start, the pace of the book picks up - particularly as the element of danger kicks in - until the final denoument, which took me by surprise. Viktor's unease, his battle with wanting to know the truth combined with his uncomfortable relationship with Alice, make for an absorbing read. But I suspect the main reason that the book is a best-seller is the extraordinary ending. And the only way to find out what that is, is to read it yourself!
Read another review of THERAPY.
Michelle Peckham, England
More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.