-Salty, the barrel of the gun in her mouth tasted surprisingly salty strange she thought, until now she would never have dreamed of putting her duty weapon in her mouth, not even as a joke…this should have been the last day of her life.
For German lit month VI, I chose to read two different books with the same title, here Fitzek’s Amok and in a separate post, Zweig’s Amok, both authors treat the title of their book, Zweig explaining the meaning of the word to people maybe unfamiliar with it and Fitzek more precisely giving a recognised definition.
-A deliberate seemingly unprovoked episode of homicidal or incredibly destructive behaviour towards others where the act of violence in question endangers injures or even kills a number of people
As the story opens Jan May, a psychiatrist, is at home when he receives a call from his partner Leonie who was, as he lovingly described her to others, quiet and secretive. Less well meaning people would have called her cagey or even just weird:
-yes I’ve been crying but that’s not important, just listen to me now please
-has something happened
-yes but don’t believe them
-Don’t believe what they tell you ok no matter what it is you have to……
At that moment the door bell rings:
-Please excuse me for disturbing you are you Jan May?
-I’m very sorry but are you aquatinted with Leoni Gregor?
-I came as quickly as possible so that you don’t have to hear about it in the evening news.
-Hear about what?
-Your partner, well she had a serious car accident about an hour ago
-What is this supposed to be some sort of joke she’s on the phone to me right now…
-I’m very very sorry… I regret to inform you that your partner, Leoni Gregor came off the road in her vehicle an hour ago on her way to see you, she crashed into a traffic light and a house wall, we don’t know the specific details yet but it seems that the car immediately caught fire. I’m sorry but there was nothing the doctors could do she died at the scene.
Six months later the psychiatrist, Yann May, decided he must find Leoni, with no thought for his own life. At gun point he takes over a trashy radio station in Berlin, 101.5, which emits:
-An asinine mix of bad music, lame gags and irrelevant news
And which runs a competition called cash call he takes a number of hostages and, changing the rules, he will phone someone at random every hour whilst on air and if they don’t answer with the correct phrase:
-I listen to 101.5 now set a hostage free
He will kill a hostage.
In an echo to Zweig’s Amok the police negotiator Ira Samin is a psychiatrist who will try to get Yann to tell his story during the negotiation but in a twist, as she is asked to drag out the negotiations, the hostage taker slowly gets her to tell her own story over the radio for millions to hear where we learn why, as illustrated in the opening quote, she wanted to take her own life that very morning.
Gangs, witness protection, suicides, betrayals, sadistic murders, government involvement, all of this and more are presented to is in this effective thriller taken here on a well dramatised audiobook.
First Published in German as “Amokspiel” in 2007 by Droemer Knaur
Adapted into English by Johannes Steiner as ‘Amok’ and published by Audible in 2015