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AMOK
by Sebastian Fitzek
Review

AMOK

Cover image of the book 'AMOK' by author Sebastian FitzekA dangerous psychopath has taken over Berlin’s leading radio station and is holding everyone inside hostage in the terrifying and twisted new thriller from Sebastian Fitzek.

‘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.

Cover image of the book 'AMOK' by author Sebastian Fitzek

SEBASTIAN FITZEK – (Translated into English by Jamie Lee Searle)

Image of author Sebastian Fitzek

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

Follow Sebastian on Twitter

Connect with Sebastian on Facebook

Cover image of the book 'AMOK' by author Sebastian Fitzek

FIRST LINES

PROLOGUE

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.

.

PART ONE

EIGHT MONTHS LATERTODAY

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.

Cover image of the book 'AMOK' by author Sebastian Fitzek

MEMORABLE LINES

“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”

Cover image of the book 'AMOK' by author Sebastian Fitzek

REVIEW

“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!

Image of author Sebastian Fitzek

A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the publisher Head of Zeus and supplied by NetGalley.

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!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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18 comments
  • Another good review from you. After reading one of his books I am curious in reading more, just with little time and my desire to read loads of non-fiction, I don’t think I will pick another of his books soon, although I am very curious.
    The hostage plot is unusual, at least for me, so I need to keep this book in mind for sure.
    Have a lovely week. xx

    • Aw! Thank you so much for saying such nice things about my review, I really appreciate you stopping by!

      I always know that when I pick up a Sebastian Fitzek book, there is seldom going to be a happy ending and that I am usually in for a dark and troubling read. Working out the twists and turns in the storyline is often a challenge too!

      I always enjoy a good hostage situation, whether it be the storyline for a book, or the plot for a film and I just know there are so many good actors out there who would make this premise well worth the adaptation from one to the other.

      It really is a good job that we don’t all prefer the same kinds of books and I know just how different our tastes can be. I always enjoy the posts about your non-fiction reading, even though I just know that I will probably never read any of the books for myself!

      Have a good week! 🙂

    • Yes! His mind manages to find the dark, devious and twisted, in just about every conceivable situation!

      Could be quite a worrying person to know, but I love his storytelling!! 🙂

  • I know you enjoy this author, so I’m glad this one was just as exciting! It certainly does sound good and terrifying (do those words go together?!). Definitely a departure from your WWII novels. 😉

    • Yes! ‘Good’ and ‘Terrifying’ definitely go together well, in my book anyway!

      I just wish my mind was as twisted and devious as Sebastian’s though, as I might be able to work out ‘whodunnit’ then, rather than need to have it explained to me like a child! 🙂

      Thanks to enquiries from a couple of different publishers and publicists, I have a few books from diverse genres filtering through now and I have time in my schedule to mix things up a bit more, which is really good!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • The synopsis and the prologue pulled me in, but I’m afraid the “Eight Months Later” part pushed me away for personal reasons, so I’m not sure I could read this despite your glowing review.

    • Ah! I’m sorry if this sounds just a little too much for you on a personal level, although in the context of the storyline, the timeline is fully explained and makes perfect sense.

      I do hope that no bad memories have been stirred from having read this post and I thank you for the good things you said about the review 🙂

    • It wouldn’t do for us all to enjoy the same type of storylines or author writing style, as then there would be nothing to discuss, or new finds to share!

      Your comment is also the reason why I find reviewing and star rating a book to be quite subjective, as what one person might enjoy, another may not, and vice versa of course.

      Also recommending a book which someone might have to pay good money for, only to wish they hadn’t bothered, also really worries me.

      I do enjoy Sebastian’s very complicated plotlines and his dark, dour style of writing, but that’s very much a personal opinion!

      Thank you for taking time to comment and for your kind words 🙂

  • I always enjoy your comprehensive reviews, Yvonne, even when the book is not necessarily my kind of thing. That said, we’re watching The Ipcress Files at the moment and I am thinking of getting into some European crime or spy reading as it’s a subject I don’t know a lot about. When I say European I actually mean areas like Germany, Eastern Europe and so on. I have actually read a fair bit of French and Italian crime stories and literature in general. I can’t say that for Germany apart from WW2 books.

    • Aw! Thank you so much for your kind words, although I really don’t expect you to take the trouble to comment when a book might not be something you would enjoy!

      I tend to find the Eastern European and German authors, very similar to their Nordic and Scandinavian counterparts, with their generally dark storylines, direct style of writing and dour characters.

      I do need to be psyched up to read this particular type of story, whereas I can usually pick up a thriller written by a Western author, without even needing to think about it, although I guess that’s simply a cultural difference.

      If a book has been through translation from its native language into English, I am also quite particular about that, although thankfully I have never yet read a Sebastian Fitzek book which doesn’t feel as though it was ever written in anything but English from the outset, such is the quality of the translators he employs.

      I don’t read a lot of spy stories, although I don’t dislike the genre, it’s just how my schedule has worked out. I guess you are watching the modern six part adaptation of the ‘Ipcress Files’, whereas I can only ever remember seeing the original 1965 film and reading the book, which I am sure I still have a copy of, somewhere on my shelves!

      We did watch the original 1979 mini series of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier’, although I can’t recall seeing the full length film version, or reading the book.

      Sebastian’s name appears on the list of the top 6 German thriller authors, although be prepared for some very complicated and twisted plots.

      Great chatting with you, as always 🙂

  • Hi Yvonne, this sounds like a great thriller and I like the setting. I’m curious about that letter. And interesting about the large cast of characters being draining to read, I can relate to that happening. Great review like always.

    • I too liked the radio station setting for this ‘kidnap’, as Jan May was able to make his cause and demands very public, across the airways. He was also able to place the onus and burden of responsibility on every Berliner who had a telephone and thus found themselves part of this macabre radio game!

      Events around the letter formed an intrinsically important part of the storyline for police psychologist and negotiator, Ira Samin. However they were purely and deeply personal, and the letter itself, which was discovered right at the end of the story, was about the only touching and emotional moment in the entire premise, and held a cautionary note of promise for the future.

      Thank you so much for the lovely comments about my review, you are so kind 🙂

  • ‘Good morning. It’s 7.35 AM. And you’re listening to your biggest nightmare.’ … WOW! What an amazing line.

    An author who has been on my radar for some time now though I understand his books are not to everyone’s liking … but then name me any book which are.

    Thanks for such a well thought out review Yvonne, I feel that combined with your pick of Memorable Moments it gives a good insight into what we might expect.

    • Expect the worst… then you won’t be disappointed!!

      It is such a unique and interesting premise to link your kidnap to a breakfast radio show phone-in, which in itself is bad enough. Add to the mix that not all is quite what it at first appears to be and then you’re hooked!

      Two very emotionally damaged main protagonists and the picture is just about complete!

      All of Sebastian’s books have some really twisted storylines and as they are all stand alone stories, this one is probably as good a place to start as anywhere, if you are thinking of trying one. The translations are also totally faultless, so there are definitely no issues there either.

      You know just how loathe I am to recommend books, for the very reason that you cite, that very few books are universally popular or enjoyed by the masses. However I am still very grateful for your kind words about my review, they mean a lot to me 🙂

    • A Sebastian Fitzek book can always be relied on to set my heart racing and give me “the willies”. They definitely should always be read with the lights on!

      If you don’t mind be scared out of your wits, then his books definitely deserve a place on your ‘wish list’ 🙂

Written by Yvonne
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