Double Down by CJ Axlerod (aka Chris Coppel)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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  • Genre:  Psychological Thriller
  • Print length: 250 pages
  • Age range: This is an adult novel but suitable for mature teens age 16+
  • Trigger warnings: none
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Well! Here’s an author masquerading as a different author (it’s all right, he’s owned up: the later edition of this delicious book acknowledges that CJ Axlerod is actually the talented Chris Coppel, of Liner and Logistics fame…) writing about a small-time theatrical impersonator masquerading as his idol, in Hollywood where everyone is masquerading as someone else. All good fun!

It’s particularly engaging because its basic premise is perfectly plausible. Only last month the papers were full of rumours that Putin was using a body double due to fears that his disgruntled generals might assassinate him, and when it comes to Hollywood idols there’s a long tradition of using doubles to disguise all manner of embarrassing defects, from a sagging but-line to being dead. So nothing preposterous about the setup. And the conflict that follows – that too seems plausible enough: in the superficial world of hollywood, where appearance are everything, why shouldn’t the body double dream of taking over?

By way of answering that question our author wants us to know that Alex is the Real Deal and Aaron is a flakey fake. Plausibility takes a bit of a hit at this point. Coppel emphasises (well, labours quite a bit) that the real Alex Cole is an all round regular guy, full of liberal californian rectitude and middle class sensibility, whereas his doppelganger is a sleazy working class upstart from hicksville, sporting every personal vice from polyester pants to psychopathy. I was less convinced by all this. Alex’s willingness to use a another human being to soak up any inconvenient bullets doesn’t seem much of a recommendation in the ethics department. And if Aaron were really such a world class ruthless psychopath, would he really be wasting his life doing amateur shows and running a second rate motel? But hey, plausibility isn’t everything, and this is a romp not a disquisition in morality.

And as a romp it works well. Aaron’s ambitions spiral out of control, Alex finds he has bitten off more than he can chew, blood gets spilt, people are locked in dangerous buildings where they have to pee in lemonade bottles, dogs prove cleverer than humans, corruptions get exposed, everything gets terribly exciting and in the end poor Aaron gets his comeuppance. The comeuppance wasn’t particularly satisfying – the pointed flagging up of a little medical issue in Chapter 5 means that one sees that coming near the start – but as if to compensate there’s a nice little twist that nobody expected. (Well I hope not. I like to spot them coming and I didn’t spot this one….)

All in all, a fun read by a wonderfully versatile writer.