Henry Cage seemed to have it all. A successful business career, considerable wealth, and a reputation for being a just and principled man. But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel.
On the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random act of violence which soon escalates into a prolonged persecution, with tragic consequences. Family secrets are revealed, and when his ex-wife Nessa summons Henry to Palm Beach, he realises that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past.
The Upright Piano Player explores with a tender, yet unflinching eye the small but devastating flaws in human nature that can shape our destinies.
In an elegant debut filled with anguish and yearning, a retired London executive stumbles through a detached life of loss and muted violence. After Henry Cage retires from the consulting firm he founded but lost control of, his quiet, solitary life closes in around him. His estranged son, Tom, lives on the coast with his wife and four-year-old son, Hal, whom Henry has never met, but who provides a catalyst for the family to reconnect once Tom tells Henry he's a grandfather. Also on the docket for a reconnection is Henry's ex-wife, Nessa, who now lives in Florida and, unbeknownst to Henry, is stricken with terminal cancer. Abbott takes these broken relationships and slowly works over their frayed ends with a delicate touch, sometimes mending them and other times hitting exposed nerves, and when Henry becomes the object of an obsessed violent stalker, the novel takes on a welcome texture of subtle menace that colors the unfolding family dramas. It's a very careful novel in its structure and revelations, but Abbott impresses most in his easy balance of the disparate plot elements (the stalker bit, which threatens to dip into the sensational, is precisely controlled) and overarching themes of reconnection and regret.