Fear Review
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Each day, families get up and go through their daily routines: eating meals, traveling to and from work and school, enjoying time together. But in Fear by German author Dirk Kurbjuweit, it takes just one note between neighbors to turn one young family’s comfortable existence into one of suspicion and dread.

The story begins with a murder. Randolph’s father comes to visit the family at their flat in Berlin, and he leaves in police custody, having confessed to shooting Randolph’s downstairs neighbor, Dieter Tiberius. After the jury has deliberated and the sentencing is complete, Randolph reflects upon his childhood and his father’s obsession with weapons while telling the story of the downstairs neighbor whose spying and accusations shook up his marriage and his family, causing Randolph and his wife, Rebecca, to doubt one another while battling a common enemy.

Fear may start with a perfectly-placed gunshot, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the same old scary story. There isn’t a killer on the loose. There aren’t any terrifying images that will haunt your dreams at night. It’s actually a quietly gripping and thought-provoking read about fear and family and perception.

The story plays on some of a parent’s greatest fears. Dieter accuses Randolph and his wife of abusing their children—and though the police find no evidence of wrongdoing on their part, the accusation alone puts a black mark on their family. They try to make up for those hints, somewhere in the background, that suggest that they’re doing something wrong—and they still find themselves feeling guilt for things they didn’t even do, which adds to the story’s atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia.

Meanwhile, beyond Dieter’s allegations, the notes and poems that he sends are filled with thinly-veiled threats that make Randolph and Rebecca fear for their safety and the safety of their children. But no matter what they do—no matter how many lawyers and police officers and social workers they speak to—they find that there’s no way to stop their neighbor’s harassment.

The horrors here, then, are mostly psychological. The story follows a man who’s grown up in an environment of fear, who worries about his wife and children, who feels completely helpless and backed into a corner. Most readers will understand his fears to a certain extent. And as Randolph deals with his menacing neighbor, his experiences will make you stop to think about how far you’d go to protect your loved ones.

It may not be a fast-paced, heart-pounding kind of read, but Fear is a chilling tale—one that’s more ominous and thought-provoking than just another over-the-top scary story.

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