This morning a dangerous psychopath is playing an old game with new rules. He’s taken six people hostage at Berlin’s leading radio station.
Every hour, a telephone will ring somewhere in Berlin. Maybe it will be in your house. Or your office. And if you can’t play the game, a hostage will die.
Renowned police psychologist Ira Samin is rushed to the scene, where she is forced to negotiate live on air.
With the nation listening, the kidnapper makes his sole demand: find his fiancée and bring her to the station.
But she is dead. Burnt to a crisp in a devastating car accident eight months ago.
Facing an impossible demand and a police commander who seems hell-bent on keeping secrets, Ira must race against the clock to resolve one of the hardest negotiations of her career.
I was asked by publisher Head of Zeus if I would be interested in reading Amok in return for a review. I eagerly accepted and was given a ‘widget’ via NetGalley for the book. As always, I hope that you find my review acceptable and am grateful for the chance to read and review for you.
Jan May is a psychotic-maniac who takes beloved radio station 101 point 5 hostage where he embarks on a campaign of terror against the citizens of Berlin every hour in the form of ‘Cash Call.’ Where is the member of the public answers the phone incorrectly, he’ll shoot one of his hostages. Police psychologist and negotiator Ira Samin are rushed to the scene to calm the situation; bringing along with her access emotional baggage that only complicated the situation further. Amok is an absolute winner of a book, I found the plot to be engaging and exciting right from the first page. In the prologue, Jan receives a call from his fiancee that sets the tone for the whole book. A mysterious conversation that states; “Don’t believe them,” before being cut off.
As a lead character, Ira Samin is very unconventional. She epitomizes the apathetic, suicidal trope to perfection. Many times I have read a book with a main character that has given up on life and comes across as unrelatable and, frankly, annoying. However, Ira Samin is an enthralling and intriguing character. Her role as a negotiator pits her ailing wits against Jan May, whom she engages with, and ends up relaying her life story, regaling how she has fallen into the pits of alcoholism and turned desperately suicidal. There’s something very tragic about her story and how it is revealed throughout Amok is as gripping as the action; there is a slow burn to the telling of Ira’s personal story that is interwoven throughout the main, thriller aspect of the novel.
There are some elements to the story that could come across as incredulous. Taking a radio station and some hostages and getting the city to play a killer game of cash-call and the plotline that follows seems to be extreme, however, the manner in which it is written makes the story utterly believable. Jan May is a man desperate for answers about the whereabouts of his fiancé and this is the absolute last resort for him to find them. Ira Samin is a depressed, suicidal, alcoholic hell-bent on ending her life throughout the novel and yet she is relatable in how she expresses herself and tells her story. There is a believable realism to them and their characters and leads to their development as the story progresses.
The plot of the story is fast-paced. It twists in so many different ways as to keep the reader guessing. Nothing resolved in the way I thought it would and the plot kept me guessing throughout the entirety of the novel. As soon as you think everything is figured out, something comes along to side-swipe your thoughts and completely change track.
All of Amok is well-written and well translated; I didn’t feel like I missed anything for this book having been translated into English from German. The descriptions of Berlin and the German setting elements to the book left me with wonderful imagery and at no point did I feel like I had missed out.
Amok is a page-turner of a book. Each of the chapters leaves the reader with a subtle foreshadowing of events that are yet to come. Instilling just enough sense of suspense without feeling overdone or over-the-top. They are light touches on events that are yet to happen or leave the reader hanging just enough to be eager to continue reading, just to discover what will happen to the character that has been left behind, only to reveal a chapter about another set of characters; only for the same to repeat – that intrigue of foreshadowing. It’s a masterful way to end each chapter to ensure that the reader keeps turning the pages to discover what’s going to happen next.
While a large element of Amok is about the thriller, the hostage-taking, and the crime being committed, there is also a softer side to the book. One that touches on mental health issues of loss, grief, and trauma. Ira Samin has lost one of her daughters to suicide and this topic is discussed in depth within the novel. Jan May has also lost the love of his life and the shared grief between the two characters is talked about live on air, throughout the hostage negotiations. So while this is a fast-paced, exciting novel, there is also a tender side to the novel that will endear even the hardest of thriller lovers.
A fast-paced, action-filled thriller interweaved with character led drama. Relatable central characters that reveal their backstories and develop throughout the novel in, much like the plot, unexpected ways. Enough political intrigue to keep the reader guessing the twists and clever use of foreshadowing that keep the reader engaged throughout.