The fish out of water trope of storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. It’s a stylized way of introducing the themes of redemption, heroism, and understanding into any piece of work. However, as well all know, this schema does not always succeed in its intentions. In William Hawkes’ Bad Choices, the tale of an American in Germany works on various levels of the age-old theme.
Hawkes’ protagonist Mark West is a swell guy who apparently has all of his stuff together. Obviously he learns that this is so not the case, which puts the narrative into motion. His wife is cheating on him, and as if that’s not bad enough, she’s cheating on him with his co-worker. As a result of this revelation, Mark decides to accept a job transfer to Leipzig, Germany.
It’s in this depiction of a reunified Germany that the story hits its stride. Hawkes’ prose shines as he describes the towering architecture of his new country, as well as of its sordid past. His inclusion of several savoury characters, including the salacious artist Sophia and the “I have a lot of skeletons in my closet” Frau Wachter sets the story on a path of thrilling and riveting plot points and developments.
Bad Choices is like a history lesson and a thriller all in one. Hawkes’ shares his clear knowledge of a post-unified Germany and uses it as an analogy to the story that quickly unfolds about a lost man who believes that by running away from his problems will heal him, when the opposite is what’s true. It’s a well-paced, accessible read that will entertain readers of the thriller/mystery genre.