‘Good morning. It’s 7.35 AM. And you’re listening to your biggest nightmare.’
This morning a dangerous psychopath is playing an old game with new rules. He’s taken six people hostage at Berlin’s leading radio station.
Every hour, a telephone will ring somewhere in Berlin. Maybe it will be in your house. Or your office. And if you pick up and answer with the new slogan, then a hostage will be set free.
Sounds fair, doesn’t it?
Police psychologist Ira Samin is rushed to the scene, where she must negotiate live on air. With the nation listening, the kidnapper makes an impossible demand. Can she give him what he wants?
And all the while, somewhere in the city… a telephone is ringing.
SEBASTIAN FITZEK – (Translated into English by Jamie Lee Searle)
Sebastian Fitzek was born in Germany in 1971. After attending law school and being promoted to LL.D. he decided against a juridical profession in favour of a creative occupation in the media.
After the traineeship at a private radio station, he switched to the competition as head of entertainment, becoming chief editor. Thereafter he became an independent executive consultant and format developer for numerous media companies across Europe.
Sebastian is one of Germany’s most successful authors of psychological thrillers. His books have sold over 11 million copies, been translated into more than 24 languages, and have been the basis for international theatre and cinema adaptations.
He was the first German author to be awarded the European Prize for Criminal Literature.
Sebastian lives with his family in Berlin.
Keep up to date with all Sebastian’s news at his website
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The phone call that would destroy his life forever came at exactly 6:47 p.m. During the investigations that followed, everyone was amazed that he had retained the exact time in his memory. The police, his incompetent lawyer and the two men from the German Federal Intelligence Service who had initially introduced themselves as journalists and then planted the cocaine in the boot of his car: all of them wondered why he was able to remember the time so precisely. It was such a minor detail compared to everything that followed.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER – TODAY
Salty. The barrel of the gun in her mouth tasted surprisingly salty. Strange, she thought. Until now, I never would have dreamed of putting my duty weapon in my mouth. Not even as a joke. After the thing with Sara had happened, she had often thought about breaking into a run during a mission and exposing her cover. On one occasion she had marched over to a frenzied attacker without a bulletproof vest or any protection whatsoever. But never before had she put her revolver between her lips and sucked at it like a baby as she was now, her right index finger on the trigger.
“Now he couldn’t hear a thing. No breathing. No scraps of sentences. Not even crackling any more. Nothing. And for the first time, he realised that silence can inflict pain in a way that even the loudest of noises cannot”
“To hostage takers, victims were the best forms of insurance. As long as the hostages were still alive, they were like pawns protecting them from attack, a way of buying their way to freedom. For that reason, contrary to the popular opinion perpetrated by TV crime series, it was very rare for hostage situations to have fatal consequences. For the perpetrator, a dead hostage was useless”
“Sometimes we all have to do things that we don’t want to do. Things that hurt others. And which push away the very people we’re doing something good for”
“The state prosecutor forced a smile, but it didn’t extend to his eyes. Ira knew that the difference between an honest smile and the vacant facial expression of an artificial grin lay in the gaze. Faust may have been smiling, but the eyes behind his glasses were ice cold. And that could only mean one thing – that everything he was about to say was a lie”
“Human beings are creatures of habit. Even where suicide is concerned. Ira had discovered that most people, when selecting the method, went for the tools they were most familiar with. Policeman and women knew their way around guns, while doctors and chemists were more familiar with medication. Suicidal individuals who lived near train stations were more likely to jump in front of trains than those who lived by the sea. In turn, seaside dwellers’ fear of drowning was less than the psychologically disturbed who had wasted away the last years of their life in anonymous high-rises. Those individuals tended to choose a jump from the roof as their final journey”
“That’s probably the most ridiculous sentence that a man like you could come out with. You always had a choice. You just weren’t brave enough to pay the price for your decisions”
“We always blame others. Or we blame the circumstances. But in reality there is only one person who can finish us off. Only one person has the power to completely destroy us, if we let them. And that is ourselves”
“All of you want to question everything. Is there any more pointless way of wasting away your life than searching for answers that will bring you nothing”
“Good morning. It’s 7.35 AM. And you’re listening to your biggest nightmare”
Even though the plotlines of Sebastian Fitzek’s books might sometimes appear overly complicated, I always enjoy his dark storylines, brooding characters and lugubrious narrative and dialogue. However for me personally, despite not being one of Sebastian’s most recent publications, AMOK takes edge-of-the-seat thriller writing, to a whole new level.
Whilst there have been several films made over the years, which have taken the same name, none would appear to have been based on this particular premise. Although not a totally unique or unconventional storyline, I have no doubt that this is a potential hit movie in the making and it really needs to be optioned, as I have an entire cast list in mind, who I am certain could turn it into an overnight success.
At this stage, I like to offer a short resume of the storyline, just to whet the appetite for what’s to come. However, to feature even a potted overview of this book, runs the risk of giving away too many spoilers, so I am going to keep this short piece deliberately vague, but believe me when I say that it barely scratches the surface of this gripping story. We are in Berlin, where following a strange and troubling phone call from his fiance, Leoni, followed by an even more worrying subsequent visit and less than satisfactory investigation by the police, psychologist Jan May’s world implodes spectacularly. Refusing to accept the evidence and information being presented to him as the truth, the balance of his mind becomes so disturbed that he can only see one option to prove his theory of corruption and wrongdoing and draw out the perpetrator who has taken away his reason for living.
Ira Samin, a police criminal psychologist negotiator, is only hanging on to her job by the skin of her teeth. An alcoholic mother with suicidal tendencies, she can only see one way out from the dark cloud she lives under, and it isn’t going to be pretty! Two unrelated people, who don’t know each other, it would seem that Ira and Jan have both have ‘opted’ for the same day on which to complete their individual self-fulfilling missions. But does fate play a deciding hand in events which now unfold, or are there much more tangible, darker forces at work, which ensure that their final game is actually played out together, very publicly, in front of an entire city.
Two psychologists; one trapped inside a radio station and about to play a whole new style of Russian roulette with his listeners and the hostages he has taken; the other surrounded by colleagues who no longer have trust or faith in her judgement, but reluctantly accept that she is the best person to negotiate in this scenario, so long as they can keep her sober and focussed. However, it soon becomes apparent that not all is as straightforward as it would seem. Jan is playing a much more devious and dangerous game than anyone realises and he definitely isn’t abiding by the rule book. Ira soon uncovers an additional and more pressing personal reason for needing to keep herself on the case and using all the tools in her kitbag, to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion, although she is soon convinced that not only is Jan playing a potentially lethal game with all their lives, but that someone on her own team is playing both ends against the middle and is a mole not to be trusted – but who?
By the end of the day the bodies have started to pile up; national security is at risk; Jan has realised that once he has set it free, he can’t get the genie back in the bottle; and a sober Ira is left to question her judgement of the colleagues she thought she knew so well, although the dark cloud questioning her love and commitment as a mother has been somewhat lifted from her shoulders. Whilst the signs are definitely positive and although the threads are still tenuous, can there possibly be hope for the future for both Jan and Ira, when the dust settles on a day which should never have happened.
This well structured, multi-layered storyline is powerful, highly textured and intense. Fast paced and told in seamless, short chapters, with crisp no nonsense narrative and dialogue, the atmosphere for the most part is desperately tense, claustrophobic and totally immersive; eerily complimenting the relatively small and confined physical footprint of the action, which is well enhanced, given depth and made very visual by some excellent descriptive writing and a keen attention to detail. The plot had so many twists and double twists, that I fast became tied up in knots about who did what, to whom, where, why and when. In this well constructed and infinitely tangled web of lies, deception, manipulation and control, everyone seemed to be double-crossing someone else and there were so many dirty little secrets being uncovered, that I wouldn’t have wanted to turn my back on any of this motley, malevolent crew, for fear of being stabbed in the back, metaphorically speaking.
It was definitely all in the detail and whilst I did manage to correctly work out the general direction I thought the story was heading in, I was completely off the grid with working out who the ‘bad guys’ really were. So by the time Sebastian had thrown in a few red herrings to confuse me a little more, I quite honestly didn’t stand a chance and I did also miss a couple of whopping obvious clues. There was just no let up until the very final chapter, when a hitherto hidden letter, written from the heart, delivers a gut wrenching confession, which does perversely pave the way for the release of that long held breath and a lifting of the all-pervading sense of guilt and grief, as a relatively gentle sigh brings the book to a close.
The relatively large and sprawling cast of characters, really had a strong and forceful presence, often threatening to overwhelm the plot, as they manipulated my thoughts and drained my energy. There wasn’t one amongst them with whom I even began to empathise or connect with, let alone invest in. Individually, they were all well defined and developed, however their often complex and raw volatility made them totally unreliable, duplicitous and manipulative. I genuinely wanted to believe in them, especially Ira and Jan, however they were both such an emotional mess, that uncovering and exposing their true motives and feelings, or finding any authenticity about them, was almost impossible.
What always makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination, stir my emotions and stimulate my senses. This story was definitely one of a kind, having the power to evoke so many feelings, that I’m sure I won’t have felt the same way about it as the last reader, nor the next, so I can only recommend that you read Amok for yourself and see where your journey leads you, but make sure you keep your wits about you!
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!