Innocent Bystander by Glenn Richards

Innocent Bystander

KIRKUS REVIEW

A 32-year-old New York college student finds himself a murder suspect after his genius pal’s suicide in this debut thriller.

A distraught man named Henri jumps from his fourth-floor apartment, convinced that his extra-credit paper on time travel will have catastrophic results. Three people witnessed Henri’s friend Michael try to stop him—but the cops think Michael may have pushed Henri to his death. Michael’s troubles increase when a girl’s body is found in the trunk of his car. He and Henri’s girlfriend, Emma, set out to clear his name; at the same time, Michael wants to get to the bottom of his recurring nightmares—ominous visions of cities devastated by a nuclear attack—which also plagued Henri before he died. Earlier, Audrey, a mysterious girl, had told Henri and Emma that she was from the future, and that Henri’s apocalyptic dreams were signs of what’s to come. Richards’ novel has hints of science fiction, but they’re more plot devices than genre signifiers, at least early on. The bulk of the story is a rousing thriller, with Michael and Emma on the run from cops as Michael searches for evidence to prove his innocence (or, rather, someone else’s guilt). Some of the police detectives’ theories border on the unbelievable, but Richards counterbalances them with the sensible Mayweather, a cop who proves sympathetic to Michael’s plight. The sci-fi element becomes a more notable presence later in the novel—Henri’s paper, for example, includes an intricate equation that seems to affect anyone who reads it. Perhaps the book’s greatest strength, however, lies in its ambiguity. Richards offers just enough information to captivate readers, while leaving much to their imaginations; for example, neither the paper nor the equation is explained in great detail, and the novel’s ending, while providing some answers, asks even more questions.

A fine thriller made better by a light seasoning of sci-fi.

Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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