Tommy Sullivan avoids a severe beating from a couple of punks, thanks to Troyer Savage stepping in. Tommy hopes that Troyer can give him some pointers on fighting—and also some advice on picking up women. When he trails Troyer to an alley to watch him make his move on a female bartender named Jamie, he instead watches him cut her throat, and Tommy is left to clean up the crime scene. Tommy, fearing that cops will tie him to the murder, escapes to Cape May, New Jersey, where he spent summers as a child. There he reconnects with Aurora, the first girl he ever kissed. Troyer soon shows up, however, and before long there’s another dead body, and Aurora vanishes without a trace. Cops, meanwhile, suspect that Tommy is a killer, and are slowly closing in. Pollack tells about half the story from Tommy’s first-person point-of-view, and the rest in third-person, centered mostly on the police investigation. When Tommy admits to taking an experimental drug for recurrent migraines and mentions having blackouts, readers will begin to question Tommy’s account. Troyer, meanwhile, is a sublimely eccentric villain: He feigns an Australian lilt with Jamie and uses it throughout the story, claiming it’s genuine; and he makes shocking, surprise appearances, even turning up in the trunk of Tommy’s car. Readers will likely anticipate the outcome very early on, and the author seems to know this, but he subverts premature speculation by winding the story through strange DNA and fingerprint results and the discovery of unknown corpses, and by making Troyer particularly elusive. The book’s final act delves into Tommy’s troubled childhood as well as his experimental medication. This last section is engaging and comprehensibly brings the story to a close, but it’s also missing much of the black humor from the previous pages. The ending, however, is a definite winner.
A self-aware psychological thriller that has great fun playing with reader expectations.