A rollicking action-thriller, ‘Chase’ is an intriguing proposition on many levels. It’s part of the German KopfKino series: Theatre of the Mind. These offer the same length and style of entertainment you’d expect to get from a movie, but in book form. So this novella will keep you entertained for a couple of hours. It’s intended to fill those gaps in modern life where you have time to while away but want something shorter – maybe less demanding – than a full-length novel.
KopfKino aims to encourage people to turn off the TV and read for an evening – perhaps even, as a couple or a group, discussing the book afterwards and bickering about which bit was best. There’s certainly plenty to get involved with in ‘Chase’, when a silent but traumatised young woman tumbles headlong into the hero’s path, belting pell-mell away from her angry pursuers.
At first, Rique believes she’s a trafficking victim, a prostitute from one of Hamburg’s squalid brothels. But as he learns more about the mute poetess, so he discovers much darker and more ominous dangers. Threats which could so easily get both of them killed…
The plot follows a tangled trail of intellectual puzzles, a twisted treasure hunt which eventually reveals the mystery woman’s unknown origins. Along the way, we’re gradually introduced to Rique’s specialists who make up CHASE, a professional private security agency. These include an elderly Chinese sage, his feisty, seriously skilled grand-daughter Chen Lu (who saves the day on several occasions and may well be my favourite character), a private SWAT squad, and the super-skilled back-room hackers upon which every covert operation depends.
CHASE operates on the side of the angels; if not entirely legally then at least in plain sight of the authorities. So when they have to take offensive action we’re treated to an intelligent, strategically coherent home invasion which credibly utilises top-notch tradecraft and some extremely special weaponry to disable the team’s opponents. The bad guys, of course, have no compunctions about using lethal force and Rique himself proves to be far from invulnerable.
That’s another part of the attraction of the central characters, who are deftly drawn in rapid fashion. They’re not incredible super-humans who beggar belief with their ability to dodge bullets. Instead, Rique makes mistakes, admits them, and has his ass handed to him on more than one occasion. You genuinely don’t know what’s going to be the outcome of each encounter – almost every chapter ends with a cracking cliff-hanger.
Regular readers of Eurocrime may be a little surprised by the style and tone of the writing. Were it not for the names and places, which firmly locate the action in Germany, this could easily be set somewhere in the USA or UK. It’s snappily written in an accessible style with quick-fire dialogue and a sense of breathless excitement. If this is the written equivalent of a Saturday night movie then it’s a feel-good mainstream flick, not one of those weirdly impenetrable art-house affairs.
At the moment, ‘Chase’ is the only KopfKino which has been translated into English. If there were more available (or if I spoke better German!) then I would immediately have bought the next in the series, and settled in for another ‘movie’ on the sofa, with popcorn.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
‘Chase: The Hunt For The Mute Poetess’ by Thomas Dellenbusch is available as an ebook or paperback
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