A literary thriller about a mysterious death and an ambitious young novelist, “full of delicious prose” (Entertainment Weekly).
Following the death of her husband—which may have been an accident, a suicide, or perhaps even murder—Catherine Strayed is living a quiet life in a secluded upstate New York college town. But now her former mentor and onetime lover has arrived. A powerful literary critic who single-handedly destroyed her late husband’s promising writing career, he has an exotic young female protégé in tow. Her name is Antonia Lively, and her debut novel has made her a darling of the publishing world.
Antonia likes to take real crimes and mysteries and turn them into fodder for fiction, with little concern about the lives she affects. Unbeknownst to Catherine, the rising star has targeted her for subject matter for the next book—and the fallout could be deadly.
This “fast-paced page-turner” (The Denver Post) is filled with mystery and psychological suspense, and asks the provocative question: What does stealing another’s life do to your soul?
“A sleepy town, charming on the surface, conceals a nest of vipers . . . Sharpened by plot swerves and an undercurrent of violence, this intelligent psychological thriller exudes the aplomb associated with Patricia Highsmith.” —Interview Magazine
“It hooked me from the start.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
The worlds of academia and literary criticism prove treacherous in Levinson's debut novel (after the short story collection Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will). After 18 months, Catherine Strayed still mourns her husband, Wyatt, a professor of creative writing whose first novel was recently published and whose death might have been a suicide caused by a devastating review from critic Henry Swallow. Unknown to Wyatt, Catherine, as a college student, had been a lover of the sexually predatory Henry. Meanwhile, to her discomfort, Henry has been hired by her late husband's university, and his talented creative writing prot g e, Antonia Lively, who has a novel on the way, insinuates herself into Catherine's life. It turns out that the nakedly ambitious Antonia strip-mines the lives of those close to her for fiction. But will she be prepared to face the consequences of her actions? Although the story has the trappings of a psychological thriller, Levinson is more interested in charting the heedless ambition and corrosive jealousy of less-than-sympathetic characters, whose motivations are exposed through a series of clunky plot devices. Despite raising intriguing questions about a writer's responsibility, this novel too often strains credulity to truly illuminate the subject.