From Publishers Weekly
In Wilson's pleasantly creepy debut novel, Owen Patterson, a Southern California software manual writer, believes that the "soil" of his marriage has been "poisoned" by the aftereffects of his brother-in-law's murder. The killer, Henry Joseph Raven, murdered CJ while Owen and Patty were on their honeymoon. Raven received a "twenty-odd-year" sentence, but Patty and her parents, a year later, are still in mourning. Owen, meanwhile, comes up with a convoluted plan for revenge: he creates alter ego Lily Hazelton, a lovelorn teacher's aide whose identity is a morass of tortured bits from Owen's past—chiefly his infatuation with now-dead cousin (and first love and sexual partner) Eileen—and writes to Raven in prison. Though the plan is never quite concrete, Owen aims to use Lily to seduce Raven through an exchange of letters, and then deny him the object of his desire, thus destroying Raven as CJ was destroyed. But as Owen gets more involved, it becomes apparent the scheme has more to do with Eileen than CJ. Though the plot takes some predictable turns as Owen's obsession darkens and the James Cain–style ending is telegraphed from the opening pages, the pathos, delusion and hope festering within Owen will carry readers through. (May)
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Owen, the narrator of this taut début novel, is a newlywed and a writer of software manuals"a solid B," in his own estimation. This happy sense of stable mediocrity is demolished during his honeymoon, when his wifes brother is murdered, and she, in her grief, becomes emotionally distant. After the killer receives a lenient prison sentence, Owen, hoping to "unpoison the soil" of his marriage, contrives an intricate scheme to inflict what he considers appropriate psychological damage on the killer. He resolves to hide his efforts from his wife until the strategy succeeds"like planning a surprise party"at which point they can finally begin rebuilding their lives. But while his wifes grief begins to wane, Owens obsession with his victim grows. Its clear from the start that Owen is doomed, but the queasy thrills of the novel derive from watching the schemeand the marriageunravel.
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