THERAPY by Sebastian Fitzek


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By-the-numbers thriller about a father who unravels the tale behind his daughter’s disappearance.

When psychiatrist Viktor Larenz’s daughter Josy was 12, he took her to an allergist, seeking help for a mysterious illness that caused severe vomiting and diarrhea. She passed into the examining room, never to be seen again. Or so Viktor says. As Viktor relates what happened, over four years have passed and he’s strapped to his bed in a sanitarium. Is he truthful or mad? With that familiar premise, Fitzek begins a narrative that follows the beat of a metronome as short chapters tap out “premise-conflict-cliffhanger.” To recover from the trauma of his loss, Viktor leaves his wife and home in Berlin, heading to a retreat on an island in the North Sea. There a woman who says she’s Anna Glass begs Viktor to treat her schizophrenia. A novelist, Glass claims she encounters in real life characters from her stories, and often in violent situations. Because one of the characters bears uncanny similarities to missing Josy, Viktor, desperate for clues to her disappearance, takes the author’s case. In flatly written sessions, Viktor pushes Glass to the edge, straining patient-client ethics. But is Glass pushing him? “‘I know a bad egg when I see one,’” the island’s mayor warns the psychiatrist. Victor soon concedes, “There was something strange about Anna Glass, something he couldn’t begin to fathom.” Indeed. Anna arrived on the island with fishing twine and a carving knife. She beats Viktor’s dog to death. She erases the hard drive of his computer. And she may not be Anna at all. When Viktor, ill with flu, discovers her pouring white powder into his tea, he suspects she may not be schizophrenic, but a canny plotter who abducted his daughter. On the inevitable storm-tossed night, Viktor learns what Glass knows. Years later Viktor’s doctors set events into meaningful context. The revelations will more likely elicit a hiss than a gasp.

Colorless and predictable work from Berlin-resident Fitzek.

Pub Date: March 17th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-38200-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2009