No witnesses, no evidence, no body: Star psychologist Viktor Larenz’s twelve-year-old daughter, Josy, who had suffered from an inexplicable illness, has vanished under mysterious circumstances during a visit to her doctor, and the investigation into her disappearance has brought no results. Four years later, Viktor remains a man shattered by this tragedy. He has retreated to a remote vacation cottage on a North Sea island, where a beautiful stranger named Anna Glass pays him a visit. She claims to be a novelist who suffers from an unusual form of schizophrenia: all the characters she creates for her books become real. While writing her most recent novel, Anna has been tortured by visions of a little girl with an unknown illness who has vanished without a trace, and she asks Dr. Larenz to treat her. Viktor reluctantly begins therapy sessions with the stranger, but very soon these sessions take a dramatic turn as the past is dragged back into the light. What really happened to Josy? Do Anna’s delusions describe Josy’s last days? And is Larenz a danger to himself and others?
Therapy is an absolutely gripping psychological thriller, an intelligent, fast and furious read that will stay with you for a long time after you have followed Viktor into the depths of his own psyche, and have figured out who Anna Glass really is.
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Sebastian Fitzek is the head of entertainment at a popular Berlin radio station. Therapy is his first thriller. It was an overwhelming success in Germany and has been translated into twenty-two languages. Fitzek is also the author of Mindbreaker, Amok, and The Child. He lives in Berlin with his girlfriend and several animals. Visit his Web site at www.sebastianfitzek.de.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
HE COULD NEVER HAVE foreseen that he might one day change places. At one time the room he was in, a spartan private ward at the Berlin-Wedding Psychosomatic Clinic, had been reserved for his most difficult patients, but now eminent psychiatrist Viktor Larenz found himself strapped to the narrow hydraulic bed, legs and arms tied down with gray elastic straps.
Not a single person had visited in all the time he had been there—not friends, former colleagues, nor family. The only distraction, besides the yellowing wood-chip paper, grease-spotted brown curtains, and water-stained ceiling, was the twice-daily appearance of Dr. Martin Roth, a young consultant psychiatrist at the clinic. No one had actually requested a visitor's permit, not even Isabell. Dr. Roth had explained the situation, and Viktor could scarcely blame his former wife. Not after what had happened.
"How long has it been since you stopped my meds?"
Dr. Roth paused his examination of the electrolyte drip hanging from a three-pronged metal stand at the head of Viktor's bed. "Three weeks, Dr. Larenz."
It was, Viktor felt, to Roth's credit that he continued to address him by his title. Over the last few days they had had several conversations, and Roth always treated him with absolute respect.
"How long have I been lucid?"
"Nine days exactly."
"Right." Viktor paused for a moment. "So when will I be released?"
The quip brought a smile to Dr. Roth's face. They both knew that Viktor would never be discharged. If he ever left the clinic, it would be for another psychiatric facility of similar security.
Viktor gazed down at his hands and shook the straps lightly. The clinic had obviously learned from experience. He had been stripped of his belt and shoelaces as soon as he was admitted. There was no mirror in the bathroom, and during his twice-daily supervised trips to the toilet he had no means of seeing whether he looked as wretched as he felt. At one stage in life he had been complimented on his appearance, attracting attention because of his broad shoulders, thick hair, and well-toned body, perfect for a man of his age. These days his declining physique left little to be admired.
"Tell me truthfully, Dr. Roth: how does it feel to see me lying here like this?"
The psychiatrist, mindful to avoid eye contact, stooped to pick up the clipboard at the foot of the bed. He seemed to be debating what to say. Pity? Concern?
He decided on the truth. "Alarming."
"Because the same thing might happen to you?"
"I suppose that strikes you as selfish."
"No, just honest. I appreciate your frankness. Besides, I'm not surprised you feel that way. We have a good deal in common, after all."
Roth merely nodded.
Present circumstances notwithstanding, the two men's lives were alike in many ways. They had both enjoyed privileged childhoods in the sheltered environment of Berlin's elegant boroughs: Viktor, descended from a long line of corporate lawyers, in Wannsee, and Roth, the child of two hand surgeons, in Westend. After studying medicine at Berlin's Free University, they had gone on to specialize in disorders of the mind. As the sole beneficiaries of their parents' wills, they had come into possession of the family estate and a sizable fortune, but instead of retiring for the rest of their days, they had ended up in the clinic as patient and doctor, brought together by coincidence—or fate.
"You can't deny there's a certain similarity between us," said Viktor. "So what would you have done if you were me?"
"You mean, if it were my daughter and I found out who put her through such pain?" Roth finished his notes, replaced the clipboard, and allowed himself to meet Viktor's gaze. "To be honest, I don't think I'd survive what you had to cope with."
Viktor laughed uncertainly. "I didn't. It killed me. Death can be unimaginably cruel."
"Perhaps you could tell me about it." Roth perched on the edge of Viktor's bed.
"About what?" He needn't have asked. Viktor knew exactly what the psychiatrist was suggesting. They had discussed the matter several times before.
"All of it. I want you to tell me the whole story: what happened to Josephine, what was making her ill. . . . Why don't you start from the beginning and tell me what happened?"
"You've heard most of it already."
"I'd like to hear the details. I want to know step-by-step what happened and why it ended the way it did."
The final catastrophe.
Viktor allowed the air to escape from his lungs and stared at the patchy ceiling. "The awful thing is, during all those years after Josy disappeared, I thought nothing could be worse than not knowing. Four whole years without a reported sighting, with no reason to believe she was alive. Sometimes I longed for the phone to ring and a voice to tell me that her corpse had been found. I thought nothing could be more agonizing than being in limbo, never knowing, just suspecting. But I was wrong. There is something worse."
Roth waited for him to continue.
"The truth is worse." His voice was almost a whisper. "The truth. I almost glimpsed it at the start. It came to me while I was standing in Dr. Grohlke's clinic on the day Josy disappeared. It was so dreadful, so unbearable, that I had to shut it out. Much later it caught up with me again, and this time I couldn't ignore it. It came after me and confronted me—quite literally confronted me. It stared me in the face."
"I found myself face-to-face with the person responsible, and it was too much to bear. Well, you know better than most what happened on the island and what became of me after that."
"The island," said Roth musingly. "Parkum, wasn't it? What took you there?"
"You're the psychiatrist; you tell me." Viktor smiled. "Very well, I'll give you my version of the answer. A newsmagazine requested an exclusive interview. I'd been approached by the press more times than I can remember, and I'd always turned them down. Isabell didn't like the idea of talking to the media. Then Spiegel Magazine e-mailed me some questions and I started to wonder: perhaps doing the interview would straighten out my thoughts. I wanted closure."
"And you thought Parkum would be the place to work on your response?"
"Did anyone go with you?"
"My wife was against the idea. She had an important business appointment in New York and didn't want to come. Frankly, I was glad for the solitude. I hoped Parkum would give me the space I needed."
"The space to say good-bye to your daughter."
It was a statement, not a question, but Viktor nodded all the same. "Yes, I suppose you could call it that. In any case, I loaded the car, put the dog in the back, and drove to the coast. We caught the car ferry to Sylt, then a passenger boat to Parkum. But if I'd known what was in store for me, I wouldn't have gone."
"Tell me about Parkum. What happened on the island? When did you start to notice the connections?"
Josephine's mystery illness. Her disappearance. The magazine article.
Viktor lowered his chin to his chest and rotated his head. There was a cracking sound as the vertebrae in his neck clicked into place. Any other form of movement was impossible with his limbs tied to the bed. He inhaled slowly and closed his eyes. It never took more than a few seconds for his thoughts to lead him back to Parkum, back to the thatched cottage on the beach where he had hoped, four years after the tragedy, to get his life back on track. He had searched for a new beginning and tried to find closure, but doing so had cost him everything he had.
Excerpted from THERAPY by SEBASTIAN FITZEK
Copyright © 2006 by Sebastian Fitzek
Published in March 2009 by St. Martin's Press
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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