The horror of early-onset Alzheimer’s deepens even further for a man who isn’t sure whether he’s a killer.
All the time he was writing his 12 thrillers, New Zealand novelist Jerry Grey kept his personality carefully separate from that of Henry Cutter, the pseudonym under which he published those books—and the shadow self whom Jerry created to write them. Jerry’s ability to distinguish what he’s imagined from what’s really happened, however, has already abandoned him at the fade-in, which finds him confessing a series of killings to the Christchurch police. No dice, they tell him; the Suzan he says he’s killed was only a victim in his first novel, A Christmas Murder. They turn Jerry over to his daughter, Eva, who takes him back to the nursing home he’s wandered away from. But it’s clear from Jerry’s entries in his Madness Journal that his memory mingles freely with his professional imagination (“write what you know, and fake the rest,” he tells himself and anyone else who’ll listen) and a fathomless sense of dread. Why has he been committed to a nursing home? What unforgivable thing did he do on Eva’s wedding day? Why is his wife, Sandra, so eager to be rid of him? And if he didn’t kill all those women whose last moments haunt him, who did—and are they even dead? Cleave (Five Minutes Alone, 2014, etc.) spins one nightmare scenario after another out of Jerry’s homely malady, leaping with such fiendish élan between past and present tense and first-person, second-person, and third-person narration that you may wonder if you’ve killed someone yourself.
A vivid, jangled exploration of mental illness, dark imagination, and the nowhere territory in between.