“You’re surprised how easy it is to track her down.”

soz

Oddly enough, not a British comedy of manners

Joining the ranks of authors whose names I cannot pronounce (see also: Chbosky, Palahniuk, etc), comes Zoran Drvenkar, a Croation-born German writer with his translated-from-German novel Sorry. This thriller is one of several firsts for me. First book translated from German, first book by a German and, as far as I can recall, first book even set in Germany.

The translation doesn’t feel particularly translated, but I’m sure something is lost in the change as it usually is, so maybe if you do speak the language, go for the original copy. However, I only have the English one, so let’s have a look.

Sorry is the story of four friends – Kris, Tamara, Wolf and Frauke – who are all approaching their thirties and still seeking meaning in their life. After losing his job, Kris realises that no one seems to know how to apologise anymore, and so the four of them set up an agency whose job it is to do the apologising that other people find hard. If someone has been unfairly dismissed or wrongly accused, the company hires these guys to say sorry for them, usually accompanied by some kind of pay off.

However, it calls goes wrong when a certain call is placed. Wolf goes to the apartment where he is to be apologising only to find his client is nailed to the wall, long dead. The four become embroiled in an ethical battle and have to decide whether to call the police (and potentially incriminate themselves), leave and pretend they saw nothing, or follow the orders of the killer to remove and dispose of the body.

The narrative is completely unique, switching not only between the four agency members, the murderer and another mysterious figure, but also mixing first person, third person and even second person points of view. You, yes you, become part of the story and the whole thing works wonderfully to really drag you inside. The resulting novel has the effect that, for most of the time, you can never be totally sure who is who, or who is actually narrating. It keeps you going until everything unties itself and becomes clear in the most surprising manner towards the end.

This is a thriller, so it’s riddled with the usual cliches, but it gets away with them because of an intelligent premise, fully-rounded and likeable characters and snapshots of comedy, whether intentional or not. The book slips through time, telling the story out of chronological order, further adding to confusion as to which character is where, who’s really narrating and what the final outcome will be.

Some of the scenes are a little gory and described as such, but if you can stomach modern-day crucifixion and pedophilia, then by all means have at it. It’s also worth a go if you’re interested in different narrative structures and want to see how they can mix effectively, as well as giving an insight into the power second person viewpoints have.

And if that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, then, well, sorry.

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