It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek (translated fom the original German by Sally-Ann Spencer)

Therapy Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek opens in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery.  Acclaimed celebrity psychiatrist and father of Josy, Viktor Larenz is there with his daughter to see allergy specialist Dr Grohlke.  He is the twenty-second doctor on Larenz’s list as twelve year old Josy has been ill for some time and no doctor has been able to come up with a diagnosis or effective treatment yet.

But soon we are embroiled in the maelstrom of Larenz’s panic as Josy goes missing.    Fact, reality, perception and the spurious are thrown into the pot, as we wonder what is the truth of the circumstances of that day.

Roll on a few years and Larenz is conversing with a younger psychiatrist now treating him.  The disappearance of his daughter has obviously caused more than a breakdown from which he could recover.  The novel progresses with a mix of third person narrative where Larenz is slowly recounting his experience to the psychiatrist and first person narrative where Larenz provides more detailed flashbacks directly to the reader.

How did Larenz come to be strapped to a bed for his own safety, discussing whether he can come off his meds with the psychiatrist?  This is the story that is eeked out in the novel, chapter by chapter, viewpoint by viewpoint – and what a story.  I may have said “eeked out”, but we are not talking “slow” here.

Larenz has lost his daughter; his marriage has broken down; his ability to function and work as a psychiatrist has been lost.  He escapes to Parkum, a remote island, where he suddenly encounters one Anna Glass, a novelist who seeks his help.  She is a schizophrenic whose characters become real to her.  Larenz is no longer working, but Glass relates one of her stories and it seems to shed light on Josy’s disappearance, pulling in a reluctant Larenz…

This is a psychological thriller based on psychology and mental illness.  Its beauty lies in its ability to throw in a curve ball at the start of every chapter once the history of the case gets going.  Thought you were going down one particular avenue?  No sirree.  Something else will open the next chapter, only to have you sitting in a maze and wanting the next clue.

As for the ending, this is one I could not have predicted.  It really bites from behind with no anticipation and proves to be a very sad outcome, for which I felt emotionally engaged.

It’s been said many times that “the mind moves in mysterious ways” and this novel takes that theme forensically and makes it a bit of a classic, in my mind.  I dare you to anticipate the outcome, when you read this novel.


Fitzek is a journalist and is now Head of Programming at RTL, Berlin’s leading radio station.  His three novels, to date, have become bestsellers in Germany.  Therapy knocked Dan Brown off the bestsellers’ list in Germany when it came out.

But let’s get a bit personal here.  This is the first novel I’ve read where the acknowledgements start with acknowledgements to the readers and you do have to warm to the author, as a result:

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank you, the reader.  Not because I have to, but because I think we share a certain solidarity.  Reading and writing are solitary and intensely personal activities, and I’m honoured to be the recipient of the most valuable gift in the world: your time.  Especially if you’ve made it all the way through to these acknowledgements…”

Clearly, Fitzek wants to entertain with his novels and wants to engage with his readers.  He certainly entertains with Therapy  and I look forward to more from this author.  Soon.  Very soon, please.

[Finally, just one gripe on the translation.  The removal of an appendix is an “appendectomy”.]


6 comments on “Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek (translated fom the original German by Sally-Ann Spencer)

  1. Katherine Howell
    October 5, 2008

    That’s one I’m going to have to track down now!

  2. Maxine
    October 6, 2008

    Fascinating! I have acquired a proof copy as a result of my interest being piqued by Mike Ripley’s review on euro crime, now I’m even more intrigued! (Despite the proof copy being in a ring binder!)

  3. crimeficreader
    October 7, 2008

    I can send you a more transportable copy? Just give me a few days!

  4. Sally
    October 26, 2008

    hey there
    glad you liked it.
    btw, british surgeons perform appendicectomies, while in north america you have an appendectomy (cf the US edition, due out next year!)

  5. cfr
    October 30, 2008

    Sally, thanks for your comment.
    You are right as my Concise Oxford English Dictionary 11th edition does refer to the appendicectomy as the British version.
    However, in my forty six years I’ve never heard it referred to as such in the UK, including during the years when I worked in the NHS. (Although online you can see that some trusts do use the word.) I wonder if appendectomy has been adopted in the UK over the years?

  6. Sally
    November 19, 2008

    hello again! i expect the op is sometimes referred to as an appendectomy, but my partner, a British surgical registrar, is most insistent that he performs appendicectomies and not the US variety. my spellchecker, however, takes a definite dislike to the British term!

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This entry was posted on October 5, 2008 by in Books.