Andrew Wilson has follwed Beautiful Shadow
, his stunning biography about Patricia Highsmith, with his debut novel, The Lying Tongue
, a book that follows in Highsmith's own tradition of plot twists and psychological conundrums.
Adam Woods arrives in Venice from England to take a job and work on his novel. The job quickly evaporates, so he finds another, as amanuensis to a reclusive old author, Gordon Crace. Things start out in a straightforward manner. The author is eccentric, to say the least, but after tidying up the place and perusing the fine art collection, Adam settles in. Crace has written one book, refuses to talk about it and tells Adam that he doesn't want his authorial life even mentioned. It is over.
The only thing we know about Adam is that he just graduated from college and his love affair ended badly. We subsequently find out that when his girlfriend broke up with him he raped her to show her how much she really wanted to be with him. Enter Adam, the sinister creep. That is just the beginning of what we find out about him, about Gordon and what they are both capable of in this revelatory tale of two truly despicable people. After finding two interesting--and damning--letters among Gordon's castabout papers, Adam decides to abandon his novel and write Crace's biography.
Wilson keeps us guessing as Adam leaves Gordon for a week, pleading a need to attend his grandmother's funeral. He goes back to England to head off another biographer, to snoop around to see what she has gleaned, and to do a bit of research on his own. Things do not go exactly as planned, but Adam is more than equal to whatever heinous act it takes to advance his own cause. When he returns to Venice and Gordon, the creep factor increases dramatically and ends in a crafty and perfect conclusion, one that the reader is not prepared for... which makes it that much better. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
Patricia Highsmith, the subject of British journalist Wilson's acclaimed biography Beautiful Shadow
, would be delighted by this standout debut novel, which heralds a major new talent in the psychological thriller genre. After a tutoring job in Venice falls through, aspiring novelist Adam Woods appears to luck into the perfect position there—as personal assistant to the reclusive Gordon Crace, an acclaimed writer whose life is shrouded in mystery and who's published only one novel. Crace, who's locked himself away from the glories of his chosen city, insists Woods abide by a set of strict rules, including not mentioning Crace's literary success. In clearing out the author's mess of a study, Woods finds two letters that hint at a dark secret in Crace's past, and begins to discreetly probe his employer's past, with calamitous results. Wilson brilliantly and subtly introduces doubt in the reader as to Woods's reliability and character before delivering some potent final plot twists. Fans of classic Hitchcock will be richly rewarded. (Feb.)
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