A stalker insinuates himself into the life of his target, with horrific results.
When he first appears, the narrator of this novel seems polite and even self-deprecating. “I have only tried to live by simple principles with doggedness and honesty, and with an open mind,” he says; it’s a simple code, and one that seems innocent enough. Quickly, however, his actions demonstrate that he has a much more sinister agenda in mind: watching a young woman as she sleeps, his movements quiet so as not to wake her. Over the course of the following pages, the narrator reveals that, due to an inheritance, he’s become independently wealthy and that he has a penchant for stalking women. It’s Frances who draws him in the most—and, gradually, Benedictus (The Afterparty, 2011) shows both how the narrator monitors her and how his efforts to disrupt her life turn a successful career into something that disrupts her psychological well-being. The contrast between the narrator’s tone and the unsettling nature of his actions creates a host of tension, and in its best moments this novel suggests a reimagining of John Fowles’ The Collector for an age of social media, constant surveillance, and toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, in the novel's second half, its narrator engages in a series of even more horrific acts, turning a work of psychological suspense into something more visceral. And while the narrator’s self-deluded solemnity makes for a number of creepy jolts throughout, having the book written from his perspective has the effect of marginalizing Frances—making the conclusion feel flat rather than chilling.
When Benedictus’ thriller clicks, it does so vividly—but it never entirely explores the full weight of its resonant themes.