Review: The Interrogator’s Notebook

Review: The Interrogator’s Notebook 

by Jessica Patient


The Interrogator’s Notebook, based on a The Interrogator’ Last Question published in Referential Magazine in 2010, is an intelligent and intriguing psychological thriller by Martin Ott.

There are sharp twists and turns through out the book as the reader follows Norman, a semi-retired military Interrogator when he is given a case to interrogate a manipulative actor who is suspected of killing his girlfriend. Norman’s life start to unravel and a man who usually is in control of situations starts to lose grip of his life.

His personal life and professional life collide into a tense ending.

Before writing, Ott worked as a US Army Interrogator. The meticulous details show that Ott has used some of his experiences and turned them into fiction. Norman even states that if he had to compile his experiences then he would conceal them in fiction.

For the reader, this adds another layer of intrigue to the story – how much of this novel is autobiographical? And how much of Norman is Ott?

The location of the novel adds to the multi-layers that The Interrogator’s Notebook offers. Los Angeles is a place where celebrities want to have their personal and private lives separated. To do this people have to create a different sort of ‘truth’ to their lives and pretend to be a character so that they can shield their ‘real’ life from public view. Ott describes this beautifully with this sentence – ‘Tectonic scars buckled deep beneath the surface, threatening to draw them all in for an eternity.’

At times this book reminded me of the film Zero Dark Thirty and the way obsession can drive a person to find the truth or to even create their own truth. Norman’s obsession with his professional life means he can not see the reality of his dysfunctional family and is an outsider to his own life. Ott explores this with Norman going to his neighbour’s house and watching his family from a hidden vantage point. He creeps around the house, hiding and listening to conversations. As the book progresses, Norman learns that he can not break down the boundaries between him and his family using the his interrogation skills. Everybody can relate to Norman’s crisis – we have all felt alienating at some point in our lives.

Through the structure of the novel we learn more about Norman’s state of mind and the ‘truth’ he has created for this life. Each chapter starts with a segment from Norman’s notebook. He describes the past cases and the way it affects his life. But how much of these segments are reality – are we dealing with an unreliable narrator? These fragments deal with the life that Norman has created but the action sections let us see him and all of his flaws. Ott describes Norman’s layers of truth in this great sentence – “He helped me see the story within the story, to probe myself as much as those I questioned.”

The Interrogator’s Notebook is type of book, which creates more questions than answers – how far do you go with interrogation to find the truth? How far would you go to protect the people you love? And the biggest question that haunts everybody – what is the truth? This book will even hold your attention long after finishing the last sentence.

-refers from Martin Ott’s contributor page

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