An ingeniously constructed thriller about missing memories
Kasper van Beek’s debut is an impressive, well constructed thriller. A man is confronted with a photo of himself with another man, who looks completely unfamiliar to him. His search for answers sends him on a mysterious journey from Amsterdam to Helsinki.
Olaf appears largely indifferent to his own life. He is married to Liesbeth and works in his fatherinlaw’s business. As if he were just passing through, he observes what goes on around him but never for one moment feels involved. He does what’s expected of him and doesn’t ask too many questions.
His apathetic attitude seems to stem from a car crash a few years earlier, which sent him flying through the windscreen. At least, that’s what he’s been told. He can’t remember much about it. For months afterwards he was in a coma, which damaged his memory. His weekly sessions with his psychiatrist don’t help Olaf or enable him to engage with life.
Jacob, the husband of Liesbeth’s sister Carolien, also works for the family business. At the traditional party to mark the publication of the annual report, he flirts with Liesbeth. The flirtation, and Carolien’s complaints about it, are too much for Olaf, who walks out of the party. Outside, he runs into Mila from the IT department, who tells him about a discovery she’s made. Her casual remark is all Olaf needs to ‘connect the dots’. His dislike of his wife and relatives and his doubts about his company’s integrity fall into place. He starts to suspect what may have caused his nightmares, which are set in a snowcovered landscape and always involve birds and drops of blood.
Soon afterwards, he is sent a photo graph of himself with a man he doesn’t recognize. Then he finds recordings of his psychiatric sessions in his fatherinlaw’s home office, and Mila’s neighbour is murdered for no apparent reason. This series of events forces him to seize control of his life. With Mila’s help, he goes in search of the truth. As they travel north, they are followed by company employees; no place is safe. In this accomplished debut, Van Beek makes deft use of small, unexpected plot twists to keep delaying the final revelation. The reader remains in suspense until the very last page.