At the front of this book is a ‘Dear Reader’ and a short explanation of how this book came about. It’s loosely based on a true story but, of course, we don’t know which parts are fact and which are fabrication to bolster a sinister fictional story.
The book has been translated from German and has an unmistakable precise, clipped, Germanic feel. It is also compared with We Need To Talk About Kevin and I can see some similarities, but this is not so depressing.
This is one of those stories that starts at the end, we know what the outcome is. In this case, we are told in the first chapter that Randolph’s father has been sentenced to imprisonment, at the age of seventy-seven, for shooting in the forehead at point blank range, Randolph’s basement neighbour, Dieter Tiberius.
The story then goes back and forth in time from when Randolph and his family first moved in to their apartment above Dieter, and back further to give us a view of Randolph’s childhood with a father he was scared of who ‘collected’ guns and was a master marksman.
At first, Randolph, Rebecca and their two children, have a good relationship with Dieter. Dieter bakes cakes and biscuits and even leaves plates of them on their doorstep. All goes well until the day Rebecca meets Dieter in the laundry room and he makes a lewd comment about her underwear. Then the accusations start that he hears them sexually abusing their children. Randolph needs to clear their name before social services are called in to remove their children.
Much of the book, although there are many facets to the story and characters, is of Randolph’s struggle with the brick wall legal system in trying to prove their innocence and that Dieter Tiberius’ is guilty of slanderous assaults on them.
I really enjoyed the book. The characters are well developed and interesting to read about. There is an element of tension with the promise of doom running all the way through – this can’t possibly end well. This is a realistic, sophisticated and grown-up version of the usual psychological thriller.