In this “outstanding psychological thriller” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.
Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter—a name that has been keeping readers on the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?
Hailed by critics as a “masterful” (Publishers Weekly) writer who consistently offers “ferocious storytelling that makes you think and feel” (The Listener) and whose fiction evokes “Breaking Bad reworked by the Coen Brothers” (Kirkus Reviews), Paul Cleave takes us down a cleverly twisted path to determine the fine line between an author and his characters, between fact and fiction.
Edgar-finalist Cleave (Joe Victim) may not be the first to use the epitome of an unreliable narrator a man suffering from Alzheimer's in a murder mystery, but he makes the most of the concept. In a Christchurch, New Zealand, police station, Jerry Grey, whose mind tends to wander, recounts committing his first murder to a woman whom he fantasizes about strangling with her own hair. To his horror, Jerry learns that she's not a police woman, as he assumed, but his daughter, Eva, who tells him that his memory of the savage knifing of an attractive neighbor, Suzan, was actually from his first in a series of crime novels written under the pseudonym Henry Cutter. Jerry is further unsettled to hear that he had been found wandering around Christchurch and that he now lives in a nursing facility. In another creepy twist, Jerry believes that he actually killed Suzan, "before he wrote about it." On almost every page, this outstanding psychological thriller forces the reader to reconsider what is real and what is only a product of Jerry's derangement.