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Passenger 23 - Book Review

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by Svetlana Tishchenko (subscribe)
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Published February 17th 2021
I knew there was something wrong with ocean cruises. I have been wary of them... Now I have a reason - a very exciting, twisted, engrossing and unputdownable reason.

Passenger 23 is a thriller by German writer Sebastian Fitzek translated into English and published in Australia by Harper Collins.

Passenger 23
Passenger 23 cover



Every year, on average 23 people disappear without a trace from cruise ships. No one has ever come back. Until now. Five years ago police psychologist Martin Schwartz lost his wife and son. They were holidaying on a cruise ship when they simply vanished, the case written off as a straightforward murder-suicide. They are not the only parent-and-child pair to have disappeared from this ship in recent years and yet, the authorities seem unconcerned. But when a missing girl reappears carrying Martin's son's beloved teddy bear the police won't be able to avoid the truth that something sinister is lurking on board...


I can't believe I did not know of Sebastian Fitzek before. Well, I've heard of him, but Passenger 23 is the first book by Fitzek I've ever read.

I am thankful that I did not know of him and his thrillers before because I haven't had a sleepless night like last night when I could not put the book down until I read it. Now the images conjured by the author are still swimming in my head, driving me crazy and sad.

I can't believe I have not read any of Fitzek's books before as they are unputdownable, so twisted they make a tornado child's play and so cruel, they make the worst of the monster into cuddly bunnies.

Passenger 23 is about humanity and limitless possibilities of how this humanity can go wrong. There are no stops, no obstacles, no brakes, no considerations when it comes to reaching one's goal, be it money, sex or freedom. There is nothing sacred in this world. Nothing at all.

Cruise ships are little planets with their infrastructure and way of life. And as the main character reminds us all, with no law enforcers, passengers are at the mercy of the ship. Anything can happen. And everything does.

This book is a journey into the dark narrow hallway of hidden decks and ugly dirty channels of human souls. Well, they can call be humans only symbolically.

The main character, Martin Schwartz, has nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing. That's why he is capable of anything and is not afraid of anyone. Yegor Kalinin, the cruise line owner, has everything to lose and everything to gain. The captain of the ship is so disposable (like everyone on the ship) he is not even worth the mention. And women. Yes, women, rather mothers and daughters. It is all about them and more.

Fitzek weaves an intricate web full of twists and turns, unexpected realisations and uncoverings. He creates characters and makes them into monsters. You never know who is in front of you. The author creates such a suspenseful puzzle where nobody can win and everyone can lose.

Passenger 23 is meant to warn you against cruises, as much as it meant to hug your kid and tell him/her that you love them again and again.

Five stars and more.

Book is available both in e-Book and paperback and sold at all good bookstores.
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Why? Passenger 23
When: Out now
Where: All bookstores
Cost: $29.99 paperback
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