|Date Published||24 August 2017|
A woman goes missing in a storm, but there is only one person who believes her life is at risk.
Katy, Jan’s sister and Greg, her lover, are convinced she has gone back to Berlin in a huff after an argument. Jan is not convinced – even less so when he finds her mobile phone in the car with a disturbing video.
Back in Berlin, Jan discovers something in his apartment that leaves him in no doubt that Laura’s life is at risk, and maybe also his own. It is the body of his neighbour, with a personalised and bloody message written on her forehead.
The Shock is what it states on the cover. There are plenty of attempts at shocking the reader with gory and unpleasant detail. While I enjoy description, and am not easily offended, I felt in this case much of it is gratuitous, gimmicky, and purely added to make the story stand out. It certainly does nothing to enhance the plot or drive it forward.
The chapters swing between Jan, Laura and the criminal, all written in the third person past tense. Jan and Laura’s chapters are not overburdened with backstory, but they are not characters that have depth, or ones that jump off the page. The reader follows the criminal’s evolution from childhood, but even by the end, I was not convinced by him, let alone his motivations.
What shows promise in the first couple of chapters soon unravels into a messy, convoluted plot with caricatured characters, particularly Laura’s mother and the criminal. It seems the author has cottoned onto the idea of using physical disfigurations to make his characters unique. Unfortunately, like everything else, this is overdone: an albino, another character in a wheelchair, and yet another with a large port-wine stain. That so many people have their crosses to bear detracts from the criminal’s motivations for turning evil.
The pacing is reasonable with a fair balance between introspection, dialogue and action but the sense of time and place is unremarkable. At the start, I felt drawn in by good description of the weather and milieu on the Cote D’Azure. Sadly, this does not come across when the story relocates to Berlin. I have no more understanding of Berlin now than before I started the story.
Description is predictable and unimaginative, and there is a lack of senses-driven writing, which leaves the reader a distant spectator rather than someone who is shadowing and feeling what the characters are going through.
The translation is unexceptional but comprehensible. At the end, despite reasonable pacing en route, I felt the author got lost in trying to bring alive the word shock.
Reviewed 09 June 2018 by Kati Barr-Taylor
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.