MEETING EVIL by Thomas Berger


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 The worst day in the life of struggling suburban realtor John Felton: from the doorbell's morning ring on through a rising spiral of violence to a teasingly ambiguous midnight climax--when John finally has to deal with the smiling, homicidal nemesis/double responsible for ruining his life. The man at the door, calling himself only Richie, wants John to push his stalled car to the edge of the downgrade; but, later, John doesn't want to walk back up the hill, and while he waits for Richie (who seems somehow deeply unsettling) to give him a lift home, Richie's car gets dented by another car driven by Sharon, who begs John to say he was with her because she has only a learner's permit. Anyway, while the three of them are cooking up stories for the police, Richie's car is stolen, so he asks Sharon and John to give him a ride home, to a village 15 miles away, where the police will shortly have set a roadblock for the perpetrators of breaking and entering, assault and battery, arson, vehicular homicide--all of which John will be a helplessly passive party to. By the time John is finally arrested by the local police, the Rube Goldberg plot seems to have run its course; but it's in the story's second half that suave, enigmatic Berger really goes into a stretch, bringing John back home to find his wife wining and dining Richie in his latest disguise, deaf to his whispered pleas that this man is dangerous, all the while that Richie is doing his own whispering about how alike he and John are--neither of them cares about anybody but himself, so why don't they cut loose and take off forever? The presto agitato first half seems at first no deeper than, say, Ed McBain's Downtown; later, when he raises unsettling questions about the deeper kinship between the psycho and the realtor, Berger still remains noncommittal. The result is by turns exhilarating, disturbing, and finally unsatisfying--as if an amusement-park ride had just dumped you back where you first got on.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-316-09258-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992


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