A fugitive attorney gets a new lease on life after faking his own death in Fleury’s debut crime novel.
Alton Carver is a bad man who’s just stolen $3 million. He’s the kind of guy who parks his Porsche across two spaces to avoid damage to the paint; now, he’s about to fabricate a fatal boating accident, leaving his wife, Nicole, and 4-year-old daughter, Clara, to pick up the pieces back home in Florida while he spends his days in Costa Rica. The plan is to reveal the truth to his wife a few years down the line. After he pilots his 26-foot Island Runner five miles into the ocean, sets it on fire, and kayaks to safety, he shaves his head, adopts a fake mustache, and returns home to witness his own wake—and then sees a strange man pawing his wife. He won’t leave town until he finds out what’s going on, so he sets about “haunting” his family (by secretly entering the house and making himself coffee, for instance). Meanwhile, the insurance company won’t pay out to Nicole, the police are sniffing around, and little Clara thinks she’s seeing her dead father. When Clara later goes missing, it puts Alton and Nicole on a collision course that will end with someone dead. With first-person narration duties largely split between Alton and Nicole, Fleury’s debut seems pacier than it is, promising an engaging noir story that never fully materializes. Alton’s procrastination, which takes up a fair chunk of the book, reads as a lack of authorial confidence; it also makes the book feel like a novella’s worth of story padded out to novel length. Overall, Fleury’s characters remain frustratingly underdeveloped. Alton’s embezzlement, for example, is merely a contrivance for him to fake his own demise, and his decision to linger is implausible. Nicole, meanwhile, is little more than a barely present mother and cheating wife with a penchant for wine. Luckily, Fleury has a brisk writing style and an ear for characters’ voices. This helps paper over the cracks and ultimately makes the book an enjoyable read.
A breezy, if flawed, debut that promises better things to come.