James Lasdun – The Fall Guy

A summer spent with friends, a summer which turns into a nightmare…

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James Lasdun – The Fall Guy

Summer is close. Charlie has invited his cousin Matt to stay with his family at their mountain-top house in the country outside New York. After years of only few contact, the cousins are getting closer again. On their way to the house to meet his wife Chloe, Charlies suddenly realized that he has forgotten her birthday present. Matt offers to go back and fetch it which they finally agree on. In his cousin’s house, Matt realises that Charlie not only made the most of his chances in life but also that he is married to the woman he also loves. The first days at the summer resident go by smoothly, but Matt senses some strangeness in Chloe’s behaviour. By coincidence he finds out that she is having an affair. He starts to follow her and soon can see more and more cracks under the surface of the happy couple.

What starts as a lightweight summer novel becomes increasingly dense. The protagonist Matt, who first appears to be rather carefree and relaxed, loses all his coolness and turns into a tenacious and somehow blinded character. He completely gets absorbed in his pursuit of Chloe’s betrayal, in finding out ever more details about her whereabouts and doings. Being rather sympathetic at first, his almost maniac behaviour becomes gradually repellent and you start to wonder if he suffers from some kind of illness which makes him lose his clear vision. A sharp turn in the action suddenly accelerates the whole plot and gives it an entirely new dimension. This came as a total surprise to me and is definitely a plus. However, the solution at the end falls short my expectations and cannot really convince me.

From a psychological point of view, there are some really interesting developments in the characters. How all three adults cope with secrets, with long hidden anger that suddenly surfaces and with unfulfilled wishes is depicted in an authentic and believable way. It is especially Matt’s change throughout the story which could grab my attention, from an ordinary, amiable guy to some kind of obsessive stalker – this was really skilfully portrayed.

All in all, I really liked the novel, notably when things got more complicated. It is a story somewhere between a psychological study and a crime novel which offers some unexpected turns and moves at different paces, well in tune with the plot.