Sunday, November 27, 2011


Jesse Kellerman

Putnam, 2007

Kellerman tries himself in psycho-neonoir. Jonah Stem is a medical student in the surgical department of a hospital in New York. After a hard day at the clinic, John returnes home to get some sleep and then go to the hospital again. Suddenly he hears a scream and sees a black man stabbing a young woman, asking for help. Instead of calling the police Jonah intervenes in the conflict, fights with a man, and then loses consciousness. When he awakes in the hospital, he learns that the man is dead and the girl recovers from injury. Jonah finds out from the newspapers of the other participants of the incident. Assailant was a man named Raymond Iniguez, a 36-year-old former teacher and a mental hospital patient. The victim was Eve Gones, 31, a teacher of dance therapy in the same hospital.

One day Jonah comes home, where Eve waits for him. They go out to dine in one of the restaurants nearby. Jonah is surprised when he finds out that Eve went to Yale and graduated at the same year with Jonah’s sister Katie. The unexpected news comes from Jonah’s lawyer Belzer: Raymond Iniguez’s brother Simon hired a nosy lawyer and is going to sue Jonah in court. Soon Jonah's life will become a one big trouble.

After the first fifty pages I want to say "wow." Kellerman takes the best from neonoir and uses it to the maximum. Honest and unsullied hero is accidentally drawn into trouble wanting to do something good. After that, troubles continue to stratify. Of course, it's all flowers compared to what lies ahead of Jonah. Later, he will regret not only that he intervened in the fight scene, but also about the fact that he was born.

The hero is about the same as in other Kellerman’s books: a young intellectual, from a decent and moderately wealthy family. Open, honest, friendly, but too soft, with no negative experiences. It is because of his character he finds himself in trouble.

And if the first half of the book is closer to neonoir, the second is safe to add the prefix psycho-. Psychopaths are in all Kellerman’s books, they just have different forms of mania and behavior. Here again, as in his other books, there are people who give themselves for others. In the beginning, when Kellerman puts beacons that should alert the reader that something is wrong with Eve, but where the author will lead, you can only guess.

On the emotional tension «Trouble» overtakes «Sunstroke», but inferior to "The Executioner." There will be death, and until the very end you’ll be sitting on pins and needles, wondering who is going to die.

So, muttering "wow" throughout the book, we come to the finale - which is disappointing. It is disappointing that the protagonist was not disclosed. I was waiting that Jonah finally will show himself, will make a move that will allow us to judge about the hero, who is he: a coward, a murderer, superdoc, a victim of circumstances.

Good novel about how easily accents are displaced (self-defense is murder; man is always rapist; and laws are delicate things), about that no one is immune. But the finale is a trouble.

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