Book Review – The Child by Sebastian Fitzek

Book Review – The Child by Sebastian Fitzek

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I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted. Last week’s Oscar week was a lot and I definitely don’t think I’ll be blogging that much again for a while. I posted 12 times in the last 7 days. I’m not sure if I even managed that during my 30 Books for My 30th series. I guess I could check but I really can’t be bothered. So, I’m just going to say that it’s a Motherbooker record. But, the reverse of that is that I haven’t had a good amount of time for reading. I’ve been madly watching films and madly writing about them. Plus, I’ve actually done stuff this weekend. It’s terribly inconvenient for my schedule. Also, the reason why I attempted to write my review of I Lost My Body after I’d got home from a beer festival on Friday. It actually worked quite well but I was very repetitive. So, yeah, reading hasn’t been high on the agenda. Meaning I’m getting behind again and am still relying on audiobooks to get my numbers up. Starting with this one.

The Audible dramatisation of Sebastian Fitzek’s novel The Child has been sitting in my library for a while. I bought it because of the cast but I never felt as though the time was right. Still, I was always intrigued so, on Friday, I decided it was time to finally listen to it. The story revolves around a 10-year-old boy who pleads guilty to a murder that took place 15 years earlier. The boy Simon, is dying of cancer and decides that he needs to confess his sins before he dies. His nurse takes him to see a lawyer, Robert Stern, who doesn’t believe Simon but soon becomes involved in the case. When a mysterious figure starts blackmailing Robert, he has no other choice but to find the real killer. It’s just a shame that he also has to contend with the police treating him like a suspect.

I can’t fault the concept for this novel because it does provide a pretty juicy conundrum. How can a boy know the details of a murder that took place 5 years before his birth? Although, when you actually think about it, that’s not a big mystery at all. The Child features several big reveals during its narrative but none of them is particularly surprising. The reason for the boy having all that knowledge has definitely been used before and to much better effect. The identity of the murderer is also not that difficult to work out because there are only so many people it could be. Then there’s the twist concerning the mystery voice giving Robert so much grief. If anyone doesn’t work that out from the character’s first appearance then I don’t know what book you’re reading.

This means that the book as a whole, particularly the ending, is incredibly disappointing. There are so many moments when characters find themselves in danger but the threat never feels real. This is a novel that doesn’t want to take any chances or do anything innovative. But it also completely believes in its concept which is why it feels so comfortable dragging the whole sorry affair out for so long. It tries to go down a dark path but the story doesn’t feel as though it flows naturally. Fitzek throws so much into the mix that it just gets a bit silly. It often feels as though he’s just trying to confuse his audience with quantity instead of quality writing.

Then there’s the pace which just doesn’t work for me. Some moments go on for way too long despite the fact that they don’t move the plot forward. Then there are the moments that whizz by or don’t get mentioned at all. It’s meant to give the novel a sense of drama and impending doom but it just makes the story feel messy. The romance storyline and the times the novel delves into Robert’s past just takes time away from creating a strong and complex thriller. Perhaps if they’d not been included then the writer would have spent more time covering up his twists?

As for the audiobook itself, I was excited by the idea of a dramatisation and the cast are pretty great. However, I’m not sure it completely worked. For one thing, the original story is from a German writer but all of the cast are clearly British. Yet, there are still plenty of references to Germany in there. Andy Serkis plays a Cockney but the men are all referred to as Herr. It doesn’t make any sense. I wasn’t really a fan of the production. For a dramatisation, there was too much narrator and the inclusion of the quotes at the beginning of the chapters just felt out of place. It would have been better as a straight radio drama. The sound effects were a bit much and the use of music was inconsistent. Just like the story itself, it’s a case of style over substance.

The Child sounded like an absolutely unmissable Audible experience but it turned out to another lame and boring thriller. It didn’t do anything exciting and went over all too familiar ground. The characters were badly written and underdeveloped. The people in this book are pure cliche. There’s nothing interesting or exciting here. It dragged on and on but did nothing to make the wait worthwhile. The very least a thriller can do is be thrilling. This wasn’t.

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