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Monday, April 12, 2010

Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek

Title: Therapy
Author: Sebastian Fitzek
Translator: Sally-Ann Spencer
Publisher: St. Martin's, 2009
Originally published in Germany as Die Therapie by Knaur, 2006

Wow.  Talk about a page turner!

I came across this book by way of Euro Crime, an information packed blog devoted to British and European crime fiction. I was scrolling through the list of authors sorted by their country of origin looking for something recent to read by a German writer. Sebastian Fitzek's Therapy was the lucky winner because I was able to request it through the Metropolitan Library System via my library's website with a simple click of my mouse.  It arrived in two or three days. I love my library.  I used to be a compulsive book buyer, but now I'm mainly a compulsive book-checker-outer at the library because 1) I'm in school and low on funds and 2) its free.

Therapy is an intense psychological thriller.  After reading this book, I'll think twice about labeling other books as psychological thrillers.  It's the story of famous psychotherapist Viktor Larenz's search for his missing daughter, Josephine or Josey, and his own process of grief and betrayal.  Josey disappeared four years ago from a doctor's office where her father dropped her off.  She had been sick with an un-diagnosable illness and was going to see yet another specialist.

Viktor and his wife, Isabell, are coping with the disappearance in their own ways. Isabell seems to be throwing herself into her work whereas Viktor has slowly fallen apart. He's quit seeing patients, drinks too much, and hopes for the day an investigator will show up and tell him his daughter is dead, giving him closure. Isabell seems confident that Josey is alive; she may blame Viktor for Josey's disappearance.  The action takes place in Berlin and Parkum, an island off Germany's coast in the North Sea, where Viktor has a cottage and to which he retreats to work on interview questions for Spiegel magazine that's due in a few days.

Shortly after Viktor's arrival at Parkum, the mysterious and pushy Anna Glass walks into his life wanting therapy sessions with him.  He insists he's no longer seeing patients, but she's a writer who claims to suffer from a form of schizophrenia that piques his curiosity: the characters she creates come to life.  But what keeps him talking with her, and violating his own professional standards, is that some of Anna's hallucinations seem to provide clues to Josey's disappearance.

Viktor gets in touch with Kai, the private investigator whose been working on Josey's disappearance, and he does some leg work on the possible clues Anna provides.  Strange things start to happen as a storm brews on the North Sea: Viktor starts getting ill after seeing Anna, his dog disappears, the island's mayor warms him that Anna seems like trouble, and then there's the odd ways that Anna shows up.  Is she really there for help or is she a danger to Viktor? Does she know something about Josey? Is Josey alive?

This is one of those books that's hard to talk about without giving away too much and I don't want to blow any plot twists for you.  I highly recommend Therapy to those who like to be kept off balance by a good story.

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