What is it about?
Fifteen years after Monika Krone's disappearance her remains are found. This starts a cascade of events. A serial rapist, and main suspect back then, escapes from prison. And some men who knew Monika are killed.
Jan Fabel and his team from the Hamburg Police reopen the case and try to figure out what happened fifteen years ago in order to catch the current serial killer.
My impression of The Ghosts of Altona is mixed. On the one hand, I liked the main character, Jan Fabel, and I found the topic of near-death experience interesting. On the other hand, I found the story too long-winded and unrealistic, and I didn't like that it ends with a cliffhanger.
Quotes from the book
What Fabel had come to believe after he had been shot two years before, was that every day was full of limitless possibilities. Everything could happen and the destiny that seemed certain one moment could change drastically, because of the slightest alteration of course: just one decision, a moment's hesitation, or a choosing to go right instead of left and everything changes.
"I wouldn't want to work with an officer who didn't think twice before ending a life. We're police officers, not soldiers."
Contrary to what most people believed, murder was almost always a sordid and dirty affair; usually the result of drunk- or drug-fuelled violence. In reality there were practically no cool-headed and cold-blooded assassins; even the public's movie-influenced image of serial killers was skewed from reality. Serial killers were, for the most part, of below average IQ and acting on the most base of instincts, often impulsively, seeking sexual gratification through the torture and death of others.
"You don't get it, do you? I didn't kill her or any other bitch. Don't you understand? What I did to them – what I put them through – I didn't want them to die afterwards. I wanted them to live. I wanted them to live long, long lives. Because every day, every single day they live when I'm finished with them, they will remember what I did. What they became. What was done to them. You're too stupid to realize that the worst thing I did to them was to let them live..."
"The victim is a few days short of a hundred and the suspected perpetrator is ninety-six." - "You are kidding me..." said Fabel. "I kid you not. [...] I would have thought murder would have seemed a little redundant at that age, but who knows?"
"Cotard's Delusion [...] is a tragic personality disorder, also called Delusion of Death. It is [...] often caused by trauma. Sufferers believe themselves to be dead. A common characteristic is for them to turn up at graveyards and demand to be buried."
The guilty, Fabel had learned, could be likeable and charming; the innocent could be arseholes.
"Basically he fucks anything that moves."