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Clevo Books
Fade to Black
Zoë Beck, author
Videographer witnesses and films a terrorist act; gets arrested, tortured and detained in solitary confinement; then is offered a documentary project he can't turn down. What he uncovers will upset his country's politics, as well as his personal relationships.
This twisty thriller from Beck, originally published in Germany in 2015 and translated into English by Rachel Reynolds, centers, like many potboilers of its era, on Islamist terrorism and anti-terrorism sentiments. But nothing amid the shocks and jolts of violence in this story of the aftermath of a terrorist attack is straightforward, save for one evergreen lesson—trust no one. Niall Stuart strolls along the Thames filming his newest documentary on London’s forgotten rivers, when he sees young men walking with machetes. Without quite knowing why, Niall follows them, filming their trek, until in broad daylight he records the two beheading a soldier. To his surprise, the two appreciate his filming the incident, asking him to upload the video on YouTube as evidence of a success in their war as they kick the head about like a soccer ball.

Niall finds himself being called a hero after filming the act of terrorism and talking the two men down from further violence. As England descends into a state of unrest in which, as Niall’s uncle puts it, “Because of all the terrorist paranoia, the police are going after innocent people without just cause,” Niall’s given a surprise opportunity: to work with his biological father, Leonard Huffman, a famous photographer, on a documentary regarding the two Islamists, whose act was inspired by England’s involvement in the Middle East. From there, Beck’s story picks up steam,encompassing a murder, a family kidnapping, a suicide bomber, more religious extremists, concerns about British racism and journalistic ethics, and the scheming of strivers in the government.

Charged colloquies about politics, xenophobia, and more are translated with the same crisp clarity as scenes of action. While a high-stakes page turner, Beck offers little in the way of escapism, lacing this exciting thriller with empathy and moral seriousness, using the form of a thriller to explore profound societal rifts. At the same time, Fade to Black will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Takeaway: Shock after shock in this thoughtful page-turner terrorism thriller.

Comparable Titles: Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist, Ausma Zehanat Khan.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-