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The Genius Paperback – March 31, 2009
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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."
Thats how the uber-talented Jesse Kellerman opens up his newest novel, The Genius, and right away, he has you.
I wont 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 thats 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 the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Kellerman sets up an intriguing premise (a collection of drawings are discovered in a vacant apartment and when some of the drawings are displayed in a gallery, it is discovered that the drawings include the faces of five murdered children) but by its mid point, the novel starts to lose some of its momentum. From a suspense novel perspective, the novel plods along rather predictably and then resolves itself in rather anticlimactic fashion. While on some level this is admirable, it isn't fully satisfying as entertainment. The family saga portions of the novel (the so-called interludes) are moderately compelling, but not strong enough to raise the novel above a sturdy 3 star rating from me.
I appreciate the effort Kellerman has made with this novel. I suspect that the author may transition soon out of genre fiction as he seems much more interested in exploring characters than building suspense. Definitely his best novel to date. I'd like to see him create a character that doesn't irritate me though.
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. A very bright, disciplined young man - very approachable, and not at all a self-important person. A lot like the humble character in his book.
I am giving this my highest rating because I liked this book...
..and so many best sellers deserve less.