Fade to Black by Zoë Beck, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt (Weyward Sisters Publishing, forthcoming 2017)
It isn't often that you encounter a novel brave enough to take on difficult and current political and social issues head on. That's what makes Fade to Black stand out- here, Zoë Beck weaves the threat of terrorism, war, and conspiracy in modern-day London into a gripping narrative that doesn't let the reader take a breath until the very end. And thanks to a flawless translation by Rachel Hildebrandt, us English-language readers can jump right in, without even realizing that it was originally written in German.
When documentary filmmaker Niall Stuart happens to notice some men walking around the city carrying machetes one afternoon, he has no idea that within minutes he'll be drawn in to a horrific scene, get thrown in prison, and then become a pawn in one politician's scheme to grab the reins of power. The two machete-carrying men declare themselves followers of IS and attack an off-duty soldier in the middle of a park, ultimately killing him in a gruesome way staged to attract maximum attention. Niall, who witnesses the attack, gets pulled in by one of the killers and ordered to film everything on his phone and post it to the internet. When the police arrive, Niall is mistakenly thought to be connected to the terrorists and languishes in prison for days without a lawyer or any access to a phone.
After he is finally released, Niall is contacted by his father (Leonard Huffman), a war photographer who had only come into Niall's life a few years before. Leonard wants Niall to make a documentary about the two terrorists, who mysteriously die just days after being captured. As Niall and his team start investigating the radicalization of Cemal Bayraktar and Farooq Kaddumi al-Engeltra (formerly Frank Holeywell), they learn some disturbing things. First, neither man had seemed to have much interest in religion (whether Islam or Christianity) until they suddenly declared themselves committed to jihad just a few months before. Further, Farooq seemed to be placed in Cemal's way just to radicalize him, when Farooq himself had been raised in a Christian family and had no previous ties to terrorism. Both men, however, had felt left out of English society, telling friends and family that their skin color and features had, they believed, barred them from fully participating.
British and American involvement in the Middle East, tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, the threat of terrorism, the omnipresence of technology, and the complex social and political realities of 21st-century London are all woven together in this dramatic work of crime fiction by one of Germany's most talented contemporary crime writers.