Psychologically probing examination of a tragic friendship between two troubled and highly competitive musicians.
Lee and James met more than ten years ago in London at the Cabresi Academy of Music. Lee was a phenomenally gifted young cellist from a poor family who had been given a scholarship and lodged with the headmaster. James was a rich wastrel who played the violin passably at best but was admitted on the strength of his father’s large donation to the school. Lee’s psychiatrist Peter narrates the story in flashback, so it’s not giving anything away to say that Lee ends up dead from a suspicious drug overdose and James stands trial for his murder. How did things ever come to such a pass? Jealousy is the quickest explanation, but it’s a sword that cuts both ways. Yes, James was jealous of Lee’s talent, but outsider Lee was jealous of James’s money and social status. They soon began to feed off each other in a truly perverse pas de deux, with James supplying money, drugs, and girls to Lee in order to secure his status as the best friend of a genius. After Lee was injured in a jealous brawl with one of his girlfriends that left him unable to play the cello, however, James stood by him when everyone else turned away, finding him work and a place to live. That may well have been the fatal misstep, since James’s girlfriend Gina also inhabited the apartment. Soon she was carrying on an affair with Lee as well, and it was only a matter of time before the situation blew up. Readers are warned not to connect the dots too hastily: second-novelist Jones (Twelve, 2001, not reviewed) has some last-minute twists kneaded into the plot.
Razor-sharp and raw: a standout thriller from across the Atlantic.