In McGovern’s dark debut thriller, a troubled man snaps and commits murder—again.
Aaron Walsh lives rent-free in Dublin with his mother, Mary, and younger sister, Rachel. He hates the idea of growing old, so he fantasizes about committing suicide or becoming a murder victim. His days generally start with Mary hounding him about housework, while unemployed Rachel does little other than stare at her smartphone. Things aren’t much better at Computer Heaven, the computer repair shop where Aaron listens to endless complaints from walk-ins. Surprisingly, he’s intrigued by one of the customers—a woman named Jane, who’s seemingly immune to Aaron’s excessive eye contact, which he says gives people the “heebie-jeebies.” He comes up with a plan to drop off Jane’s computer at her home, hoping that he can get himself invited inside, but things don’t go the way that he hoped. Instead, he succumbs to a violent outburst that turns homicidal. As it turns out, it isn’t the first time that he’s killed someone—and sadly, it won’t be the last. Although this story is often somber and grotesque, McGovern injects enough nuance to prevent it from being a mere blood bath. For example, he sporadically pulls away from Aaron’s first-person narrative to offer other characters’ perspectives. Most are posthumous, but they offer tender recollections that make them sympathetic, or they show how Aaron looks through another person’s eyes. There’s a drastic plot turn in the latter half of the novel that implies that Aaron is cracking up; it’s unclear if some or all of what’s happening is only in his head, but the ambiguity only makes things more intriguing. Overall, Aaron is an unsavory character, to be sure, but he sometimes has heartfelt flashes of insight: “Life is all one big trap and no one sees it because they are too busy playing along.”
A riveting character study even during its most appalling moments.