Wednesday, February 28

Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

Review by Gloria Feit

Jonah is a third-year medical student at a New York City teaching hospital, over-worked and stressed out.  One night, having run out of the hospital on a personal errand, he hears a woman's scream, and comes upon what appears to be a murder in progress.  He instinctively intervenes, and the knife-wielding attacker is killed.  The woman, he later finds, has survived with nothing worse than sixty-two stitches.   Nine days later she shows up in his apartment.  They go for a couple of drinks; he is attracted to her, but the evening ends with his failing to get her phone number.  Then, soon after, she appears behind him in a downtown book store and goes back to his apartment with him.   They start seeing each other every day, and what begins as an exciting, intensely sexual relationship becomes something much darker, as implied by the book's title, but so much worse than merely that.


The author is, at this point in his career [this is his second novel, following "Sunstroke"], known primarily as the son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, but now coming into his own with this book.  I had a couple of problems with it, specifically, the writing style, which at times seemed jumpy [for lack of a better word].  Similarly, I found it unsettling and a bit disorienting to read about characters whose identities are not made clear, e.g., when it's discovered that one character, Hannah, is the daughter of someone first mentioned a few pages back but not identified at the time and then, a bit further on, someone else who's been a presence in the novel is identified as being her father.  The use of adjectives such as "normative," "japanned," "acidulated," "bactrian," "gravid," "eructing" and "plastinated," and something described as being a "panjandrum" had me thinking I'd better have a dictionary beside me.  The main characters' surnames, somewhat self-consciously, are "Stem," "like a plant, the root of all goodness, the benevolent earth god," [originally Stein], and "Gones" [originally Jones but misspelled at some point in time and still pronounced "Jones"]   All of which serves to pique the interest while at the same time pulling this reader briefly out of the story.  But these things occur early in the book, and as a whole, this is a fascinating and original story, which I must admit at times had me wanting to look away as when one passes the scene of an accident, horrified but needing to see what happens next, and it's got a shocker of an ending.


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