Fear (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Dirk Kurbjuweit

Harper, 9780062678348, 272pp.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

List Price: 25.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Fear shifts our moral codes. It makes us accessories to murder. A great achievement.” —Herman Koch, author of The Dinner

An acclaimed German writer makes his American debut with this gripping and sophisticated thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and the early novels of Ian McEwan, about the murder of a neighbor who had been harassing a middle-class family—and the relative imprisoned for the crime.

"I had always believed my father capable of a massacre. Whenever I heard on the news that there had been a killing spree, I would hold my breath, unable to relax until it was clear that it couldn't have been him."

Randolph Tiefenthaler insists he had a normal childhood, though he grew up with a father who kept thirty loaded guns in the house. A modestly successful architect with a wonderful family and a beautiful home, he soon finds his life compromised when his father, a man Randolph loves yet has always feared, is imprisoned for murder.

Fear is the story of the twisted events leading up to his father’s incarceration. It begins when Randolph and his family move into a new building and meet their neighbor, Dieter Tiberius, the peculiar yet seemingly friendly man living in the basement apartment. As the Tiefenthalers settle into their home, they becoming increasingly disturbed as Dieter’s strange behavior turns malevolent. Randolph unravels the tale of Dieter’s harassment—the erotic letters he sends to Randolph's wife Rebecca, his spying, his accusations of child abuse, the police reports he filed against them. Finally, Randolph admits his of own feelings of desperation and helplessness, which ultimately led to his father’s intervention.

As Randolph plumbs the depths of his own uncertainty surrounding the murder—pondering fundamental questions about masculinity, violence, and the rule of law—his reliability is slowly but irrevocably called into doubt. The result is an unsettling meditation on middle-class privilege and "civilized life" that builds to a shocking conclusion.

Praise For Fear: A Novel

Fear shifts our moral codes. It makes us accessories to murder. A great achievement.”

“Cerebral crime fiction with an ethical core.”

“Its layers of paranoia and memories are brilliantly done to play on every parent’s deepest fears.”

“Such great writing, evoking a domestic landscape as creepy as the man in the basement downstairs.... An unsettling tale of merciless self-scrutiny.”

“A neighbor goes from sort-of-strange to seriously scary in this gripping German thriller.... You’ll be turning pages to learn how the psychological torture will end.”

“Unsettling…. Kurbjuweit generates suspense by making the reader wonder what exactly precipitates Dieter’s killing, who is really responsible, and what the reader might do in the Tiefenthalers’ place.”

“Fear is a smart, psychologically complex and morally acute fable decked out in the garb of an intricate thriller... a wry, complex, at times disturbing survey of middle-class life.”

“A strong and haunting work that is worthy of your time.”

Fear shifts our moral codes. It makes us accessories to murder. A great achievement.”

“A subtle and engrossing psychological thriller that gives an intelligent, carefully considered response to the question of how much our liberal values are worth when we feel our lives are threatened.”

“Fear forces us to see just how thin the delicate veneer of civilization really is, and thus confirms it: any one of us can become a murderer.”

“Gripping, suspenseful. . . . As a thriller, Fear more than holds its own against the competition. It reminds one of Dutch author Herman Koch’s bestselling novels, and not only because of the moral question—How far will you go to protect your family?—at the heart of the story.”