I think I read somewhere that somebody is about to reissue Therapy, and being a shameless opportunist I’ll post my review from Black Static #6.
Allowing for all the usual corrections/alterations, it may have read something like this:-
THERAPY by SEBASTIAN FITZEK
Pan paperback, 352pp, £6.99
Well-known psychiatrist Viktor Larenz is haunted by a tragedy in his past, the disappearance of his twelve year old daughter Josy, snatched from a doctor’s office where she had gone for treatment of an undiagnosed sickness. No trace has been found of the girl, either by the police or the private detective hired by Larenz. Close to despair he withdraws to a family home on the isolated North Sea island of Parkum, where new hope arrives in the form of beautiful stranger Anna Glass, a writer of children’s book. Anna suffers from a rare form of schizophrenia and claims that all of her characters appear to her in real life, and she has been writing about a girl who sounds just like Josy. Larenz takes on her treatment in an attempt to find out the truth behind her stories, but there is much more to Anna Glass than at first appears to be the case.
This is a clever book, one in which different layers of reality are exposed as the narrative progresses, so that reading it is rather like peeling away the skin of an onion. Unfortunately this makes reviewing a hazardous endeavour, with the chance of giving away a vital plot twist and spoiling things for the reader. The story is intriguing, starting as it does with a terrible event, the disappearance of a child, a fear with which most of us can identify, and then moving further away from reality with each chapter, as Viktor’s world and Anna’s fiction overlap. As the story progresses and events grow increasingly surreal, serious doubts set in about Fitzek’s ability to rein it back in and provide a solid rationale for what is happening. And the trick is that he doesn’t, instead peeling back one of those layers to reveal something else entirely, and then just when we have accepted that he pulls yet another rabbit out of his silk top hat, like a conjuror wanting to bring the curtain down with a final flourish. There’s an element of cheat to this I think, echoes of the old ‘then I woke up and it was all a dream’ gambit that I usually abhor, but here made a lot more credible than is often the case.
Also to Fitzek’s credit he does a superb job of delineating Viktor Larenz’s character, the love and despair of a father dealing with an impossible situation, the dawning horror of the truth of his situation as the psycho-drama unfolds. There is no padding either, with the prose sparse and lean, building up a ferocious pace, and coincidentally giving us little time to consider possible glitches in the story. Those glitches may be a little too much to swallow for some readers when the closing revelations come, but for me I think Fitzek just about managed to pull it off, producing a book that is highly readable and that little bit different from most of what the thriller genre has to offer.