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The Genius Paperback – March 31, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Harlan Coben on The Genius
Harlan Coben is one of the virtuosos of the modern thriller. Each new novel hits the top of bestseller lists across the world, and he has become the first author to sweep the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony awards. Beginning with his acclaimed Myron Bolitar series (including the recent Promise Me), Coben soon branched out into stand-alone thrillers that have made his name as a master of clockwork suspense, including his latest, Hold Tight, which brings his trademark thrills into the most basic dilemmas of the modern suburban family.

"In the beginning, I behaved badly."

That’s how the uber-talented Jesse Kellerman opens up his newest novel, The Genius, and right away, he has you.

I won’t give you a long plot summary because others will do it better, but briefly: A young art dealer named Ethan Muller manages to get hold of a treasure trove of original art after the artist, an unknown shut-in named Victor Cracke, disappears. The first sign of trouble crops up when a retired cop recognizes one of the figures as being a boy who died some 40 years earlier. Ethan's life spirals out of control from there. Before the story is over, Ethan will learn to question everything about his "wonderful" discovery--as well as his own family's destiny.

Yes, the book is gripping and compelling and Ethan Muller, the narrator, is wonderfully wry company, but what truly separates Kellerman from the pack is his prose. Simply put, he is a wonderful writer. He has the ability to make everything seem, well, true. Every scene has that ring of authenticity that’s so elusive in fiction. I bought everything that Ethan did--and loved the flashbacks showing how the Muller family went from poor immigrants to real-estate tycoons.

I love books where past crimes will not stay buried. The web of deceit in The Genius stretches back four decades, but it is still claiming victims. Jesse Kellerman tightens the noose slowly, and we his readers can do nothing but turn the pages.

I have been a fan since his debut, Sunstroke, but he's getting better and better. If you've already read Jesse Kellerman, don't waste anymore time reading this review. If you haven't yet discovered his work, The Genius is the place to begin--and not a bad description of the author.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Greed gets Ethan Muller, a 33-year-old Manhattan art dealer, into hot water in Kellerman's superb third stand-alone thriller (after Trouble). When reclusive artist Victor Cracke disappears, Muller winds up taking possession of the boxes and boxes of intense, disturbing drawings that Cracke left behind in his shabby Queens apartment. A favorable New York Times article helps fuel lucrative sales at an exhibit of Cracke's drawings at Muller's Chelsea gallery. Soon, though, Muller starts to receive cryptic, vaguely threatening letters. He also hears from a retired NYPD detective, Lee McGrath, who recognizes the face of one of the boys in a Cracke drawing as belonging to the victim of a 40-year-old unsolved murder. That revelation turns Muller into an amateur detective as he attempts to discover how the dead boy's image—along with those of several other victims—made its way into the pictures. Kellerman has a gift for creating compelling characters as well as for crafting an ingenious plot that grabs the reader and refuses to let go. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Jove; Reprint edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0515146056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0515146059
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 1.2 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jesse Kellerman is the author of three previous novels, The Genius, Trouble, and Sunstroke. His plays have also won several awards, including the 2003 Princess Grace Award, given to America's most promising young playwright. He lives in California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE GENIUS is a very impressive effort by Jesse Kellerman. This book is a highly effective suspense novel, but the quality of the prose is strong enough to satisfy most fans of literary fiction. I read a lot of suspense fiction, and this is one of the best novels I've read this year.

The main character of THE GENIUS is a young, struggling art dealer named Ethan Muller. The novel opens with Muller discovering a large trove of artwork by an unknown, reclusive genius named Victor Cracke. Cracke has disappeared mysteriously, and Muller ends up taking the artwork for himself and his gallery. He mounts a successful show of the artwork, only to discover that Cracke has a hidden, dangerous past -- a past which may involve Muller himself.

THE GENIUS is very well-writen, a genuine literary thriller. Kellerman has matured into a really effective writer, and he does a superb job describing the New York contemporary art scene. All the characterization in this book is first-rate, and the dialogue is sharp and fun. The plot is also gripping, and I kept turning the pages, always interested in what was about to happen next.

The protagonist of this book isn't entirely entirely likable, which may turn off some readers. But if you enjoy the complex characterization of authors like Colin Harrison or Laura Lippman, you will find much to admire in THE GENIUS.

I wasn't a fan of Kellerman's listless first novel, SUNSTROKE, but this novel has converted me. If Kellerman can write novels like THE GENIUS before the age of 30, I can't wait to see what he will be producing over the next decade, as his talent matures even further.

Highly recommended.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Norburn on May 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have mixed feelings about this novel. I wasn't terribly impressed by Kellerman's debut novel Sunburn and I really disliked his sophomore effort Trouble. Kellerman's third novel is ambitious. I especially appreciate that it deviates from conventional crime novel formulas. In fact, the solving of a series of 40 year old child murders is secondary. The Genius, first and foremost, is a family saga. At its heart, it's the story of a cold and distant father trying to reconnect with his estranged son.

The catch is that readers who expect action, suspense, and page turning thrills may be disappointed. I admire the fact that Kellerman doesn't make criminal investigation exciting. It's tedious work. There is no `big shoot out' or car chase to pump up the reader's adrenaline. Instead, evidence is collected, an arrest is made. It's pretty routine stuff - just like real life.

Kellerman does a good job with character development. As mentioned before, this is really a character driven family saga, not a plot driven thriller. I admire that Kellerman doesn't feel compelled to make his characters especially likeable. Ethan, our hero, is actually a pretentious self absorbed (insert your own expletive here); certainly not the type of character that an author can build a franchise around. I didn't hate Ethan, but he did grate on my nerves from time to time (notably when he makes a rather whiny phone call to an Assistant DA). The characters in this novel are fully realized imperfect human beings. Unfortunately, they can be a little annoying at times.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Tom S. on April 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A successful young NYC art dealer named Ethan Muller discovers a vast series of bizarre drawings in an abandoned apartment in Queens, and the unknown genius who created them quickly becomes the toast of the contemporary art world. But Ethan soon has cause for alarm--a retired cop sees one of the drawings in the newspaper and recognizes the little boy in it as a long-ago victim of a serial killer who was never caught. Could the phantom artist and the phantom murderer be one and the same? Ethan Muller is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. And someone else is just as determined to keep the secret buried....

THE GENIUS is a terrific suspense novel from one of our brightest new talents. Kellerman, son of bestselling authors Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, is 'a chip off the old block' and then some. His story is colorful, his setting (the New York art world) is vividly rendered, and his characters are sharply drawn and memorable. In other words, the book is very much like the brilliant series of drawings at the center of its plot. Don't miss this one. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By DS in SFO on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I attended a book signing with Kellerman when this book was introduced. I had not read his prior books
so it was only by chance that I stopped into the bookstore and Jesse Kellerman was there. He was speaking
to the assembled customers about how he was inspired by the Henry Darger case, so I do not think he makes any apologies for that inspiration, but his take on the story is totally different.

Unlike the works of Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman, who have common characters re-appearing in subsequent novels, Jess Kellerman's main character is more or less the common man who has a very strange experience - then goes back to being a common man, all the wiser.

Not that Ethan Mueller is actually all that common, being the son of a very wealthy man, but he isn't a detective or had any experience with solving a crime.

The story almost reads like a script. Lots of dialog and it drew me into the story immediately. There is so much going on that as I approached the end, I was afraid all the loose ends would not be tied up in the remaining pages. Don't you just hate reading a great book and then it bombs at the end?

"The Genius" doesn't let you down. To the last word, I enjoyed not only the story and the pace but the word selections like getting up from a taxi seat as "pulling away from sticky vinyl" The pace is good, the story is very interesting and I finished reading feeling like it was a very good read.

I am not sure I will read Kellerman's earlier books, since this one was very satisfying and I do think he is probably getting better and better. He mentioned that his publisher wants a book every 12 months, so I will wait for the next one.

Fascinating to hear about how Jesse Kellerman approaches his work.
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