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Wednesday 30 December 2015

‘The Child’ by Sebastian Fitzek

Published by Sphere,
13 August 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5687-2 (PB)

This book should come with a health warning: care required; could seriously mess with your mind.

The scenario the author sets up certainly messes with the protagonist’s mind – though to be fair, it was pretty messed up in the first place. Criminal lawyer Robert Stern has never succeeded in moving on after the unexplained cot death of his two-day-old son, some ten years before this book begins, and when a strange sequence of events leads him to believe the child may still be alive, he is drawn inexorably into a dark, complex underworld of murder, revenge and danger.

It begins with another child: Simon, an engaging ten-year-old boy who is dying of terminal cancer – and is convinced that he was a serial killer in a previous life. Sceptical? So is Robert Stern, until Simon describes the body and burial place of one of his victims – and leads him right to it.

As Stern sets out to prove one way or the other whether Simon’s ‘memories’ are genuine, the police prove unhelpful at best, and he finds himself crossing and recrossing a well-evoked Berlin and its surroundings on the convoluted trail, and also in the sights, of a present-day killer whose identity and agenda remain a mystery until almost the end of the book. The tension level never falters; the sense of ‘how will he get out of this?’ kept me gripped until the final twist.

Sebastian Fitzek has a keen eye for an interesting character. Stern is the best kind of damaged hero: full of flaws, and with a history that has provided him with friends in usefully dark places, but ultimately one of the good guys. Young Simon is heartbreakingly serene about his ultimate inescapable fate, and about the rollercoaster journey he embarks on with Stern and Carina, the nurse who almost sacrifices her career to help him solve the mystery of the ‘memories’. She is intelligent and feisty when she needs to be, though occasionally a tad over-emotional. Borchert, Stern’s seedy former client, is arguably the most interesting of all, with feet in various grubby camps as well as a basic sense of decency.

I’m not normally a fan of translated fiction, so full marks not only to Fitzek but also to John Brownjohn, who has turned the original German into pacy idiomatic English which never falters. Fitzek is apparently hugely popular in his native country; The Child deserves to raise his profile in the UK as well.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Sebastian Fitzek was born 13 October 1971 in Berlin Germany. He is a writer and journalist. His first book Therapy was a bestseller in Germany in 2006, toppling
The Da Vinci Code from the No1 position.


Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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