cover image Fear


Dirk Kurbjuweit, trans. from the German by Imogen Taylor. Harper, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-267834-8

At the start of German author Kurbjuweit’s unsettling U.S. debut, Randolph Tiefenthaler visits his unresponsive 77-year-old father, Hermann, in an institution that at first appears to be a care facility, but is in fact a prison. Hermann is serving time for the shooting death of Dieter Tiberius, Randolph’s downstairs neighbor in Berlin. Randolph’s narration shifts back in forth in time between his “happy” childhood, when he nevertheless feared being shot by his gun-loving father, and the recent past, when he fears what Dieter may do to his family. Dieter, initially solicitous to his new upstairs neighbors, begins leaving sexually suggestive writings addressed to Rebecca, Randolph’s wife, and letters suggesting that Randolph and Rebecca are sexually abusing their children. Kurbjuweit generates suspense by making the reader wonder what exactly precipitates Dieter’s killing, who is really responsible, and what the reader might do in the Tiefenthalers’ place. The question of whether any of us is capable of murder is not new, and while Kurbjuweit’s characters are also not unique, we care enough about these flawed people to keep turning the pages. (Oct.)