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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Die Täuschung

Charlotte Link

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To purchase Die Täuschung

Title: Die Täuschung
Author: Charlotte Link
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002
Length: 478 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Die Täuschung - Deutschland
Illusions mortelles - France
La doppia vita - Italia
  • Die Täuschung has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B- : reasonably well-written, but makes a bit of a hash of the story

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Charlotte Link's Die Täuschung ('The Deception') is a curious thriller that, at least, doesn't at first go where one might expect it is leading.
       The novel begins with a newspaper clipping from 1999, documenting a recently discovered murder of an elderly woman by strangulation. Then there's a Prologue, set in 2001, with a woman realizing there is someone in the house with her (and her young child) -- and realizing it's her time to die (by strangulation). The novel proper then opens on 6 October 2001 -- and proceeds, day by day, through the 18th. [American readers would probably be surprised to find that, despite these events taking place so soon after the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. -- and the international turmoil in the aftermath -- no one in this story has the slightest interest in any of that. Given that Link chose a period so close to the attacks while the story could have been set practically any time or year, it's hard not to read something into this.]
       The German couple, Peter and Laura Simon have been married for close to a decade, and they have a baby daughter. Every year, Peter takes a week or so off on his own in the fall, traveling to the south of France where he goes sailing with his good friend Christopher. For a few years now Peter and Laura have owned a house in the area and they summer there, but the fall trip is strictly me-time for Peter, and he doesn't want Laura tagging along. The novel begins with Peter driving down to the usual place; he calls Laura from a rest-stop -- and that's the last she hears from him.
       At first surprised that he doesn't call from further along the way the same evening, she grows increasingly concerned. It's not like him -- and as she begins sniffing around she quickly discovers that there is a lot that seems fishy. Checking out his office, she soon discovers that Peter hasn't been paying the bills -- and that it looks like they're essentially bankrupt. She begins to wonder whether Peter hasn't done a runner -- and soon she sets off for Provence herself. (The baby is easily shoved off on her mother; Laura seems to have little difficulty leaving the tyke behind and then being without her.)
       The last place Peter was seen was Chez Nadine, the local restaurant run by Henri and his considerably less enthusiastic-about-it wife, Nadine, who have become quite close to Peter and Laura. There's considerable exposition here -- of the couple, (the dismal) state of their marriage, and the restaurant, where Henri never seems to have enough help (though one soon has to wonder why it's so hard for him to find any waitstaff). Among the few Henri can count on is his acne-suffering unattractive cousin, Cathérine, who still loves him (and who can't stand Nadine, a feeling that is mutual).
       Peter's car is found near the restaurant, with much that belonged to him still in it, and slowly Laura begins to be able to piece together the enormity of the deception that he practiced. Meanwhile, there's that nasty murder of the helpless young mother from a few weeks earlier ... and when a man's body is found and it looks like the murderer is one and the same, things get more complicated. Is there a serial killer on the loose ? And what are the killers motives -- since the female victims weren't raped and the man's (very) valuables weren't taken ?
       Admirably, at least, Link does not do the entirely obvious with the Peter-character -- though one has to wonder whether it wouldn't have been better if she had. As is, the two-part novel switches from murder-mystery to cat-and-mouse chase two-thirds of the way in, and the rest of the novel amounts to seeing just how much the murderer can get away with (and who the further victims might be).
       Link does the thriller writing quite well: she sets some decent scenes, conveys the terror, the lust, the hatred. But there's too much here that is disagreeable, beginning with the dissatisfied and obnoxious characters -- there's almost no one sympathetic in the novel (not even Laura) and more than enough to revile. Worse is their unrealistic behavior, beginning with Laura not contacting the police as soon as she has good reason to suspect Peter is missing (and then, when she finally does have to talk with them, revealing far too little). Of course, that's nothing compared to the character who decides it's a good idea to call the murderer and leave a message (which includes all the information the murderer might want to track her down and dispose of her), rather than, say, go to the police with the information. (While it's understandable that some characters aren't all that eager to talk to the police, here nobody seems to -- even when it so obviously would be in their best interest.)
       Laura's reactions generally to Peter's betrayals and deceptions are also rather odd, and at the very least she should be sharing a lot more of what she uncovers much sooner. Meanwhile, Anne, a good friend, is also a peculiar sort of confidante and advisor to Laura -- especially since they're essentially limited to communicating via telephone (and it doesn't help that Anne can't stand Peter). There are some decent ideas here -- Nadine and Henri's role in events is a nice spin on things, but even with that there's also way too much of the day-to-day tension and ugliness in that household in the novel.
       Link also has a few odd tics in her storytelling -- most notably and annoyingly here the frequency with which her characters throw up. There is way too much vomit here -- much of it released under circumstances where vomiting wouldn't seem to be a particularly natural reaction.
       Reasonably well-written, with some decent chills and thrills, Die Täuschung ultimately doesn't stand up too well, its wobbly story too much for what decent ideas there are.

- M.A.Orthofer, 31 December 2011

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Die Täuschung: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bestselling German author Charlotte Link was born in 1963.

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