Reviewed by De Gevallene, April 2021
Well, I’ve seen various reviewers saying “oh my, how can this be a debut novel?”
And let me add, it is definitely a good novel, first or otherwise. The author has talent. The writing is great. He is one to look out for.
But all the same I read it thinking, ah, great book but a debut novel in pure culture with all the rookie errors!
Like many first time novelists, he’s determined to throw everything he’s got into it, like an anxious hostess adding more and more ingredients to the pie till nobody knows what it’s supposed to be. A Mexican gangster adventure, a serial killer plot, a horror / cruelty / mind of a madman study, a psychopath coming of age story, a medical drama with enough details to make you know the author is a surgeon, a picaresque carry on down….. There are at least three or four novels wrapped up in here, and it would have been a better book if he’d had the confidence to write just one of them. Personally (like several of his reviewers) I would have liked to read the novel about Henry – who is central but, on the balance of everything, doesn’t get anything like enough airtime. And I’d have settled for the novel about the interaction between the young psychopath and his teacher – which largely gets played out off stage. Or the novel about a doctor with his back against the wall, going to the bad side. To get in everything-and-the-kitchen-sink was impressive, but made the structure unwieldy and instead of leaving me feeling I’d been supremely well fed, I felt rather over-full but still a little short changed on the ingredients that most interested me.
Big sigh therefore, but it was still a good book. My only anxiety is that the author may have nothing left in the cupboard now. And to make it worse, he’s killed off (spoilers) his number one asset, whom he could have milked for a series.
Hmmm. Since he’s obviously a surgeon and probably writing the book because he’s saddled with a lot of debt and the day job isn’t fulfilling, perhaps he could retrain as a teacher and move to Texas….