THE FALL GUY by James Lasdun


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Buried resentments and obsessive attractions drive three vacationers way over the edge.

When Matthew was a boy in London, his American cousin, Charlie, was sent to live with his family, and they became “brothers in all but name.” But when Matthew’s father was disgraced and he himself was expelled from high school for selling drugs, something went wrong between them which has never fully mended. But things are looking up in the summer of 2012, when Charlie invites Matthew to spend the summer with him and wife Chloe at their luxurious New York state vacation home. Since Matthew is down on his luck and could use the money he’d make subletting his Brooklyn apartment, and also since he is very, very fond of Chloe, he accepts. He moves into the guesthouse on the property and attempts to earn his keep by hunting down gourmet ingredients and preparing lavish four-star meals. Turns out Charlie is still a boring, self-righteous fat cat and Chloe is as delightful as ever; Matthew is self-aware enough to realize that the mystical kinship he feels with her is basically a fancy way of coveting his cousin’s wife. But knowing that doesn’t make it one iota less dangerous. Lasdun’s (Give Me Everything You Have, 2014, etc.) controlled, devious storytelling style infuses every tick of the clock with tension. Nothing feels innocent, whether it’s a summer afternoon (“The heat merged with the constant sounds of insects and red-winged blackbirds to form its own throbbing, hypnotic medium”) or a pretentious entree (“a Catalan seafood dish that matches a firm white fish with a mixture of blood sausage and sea urchin roe, seasoned with chorizo”). Fava beans with a nice Chianti, anyone?

A nasty piece of work, well done.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-393-29232-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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