Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: The Executor

Author: Jesse Kellerman
Format: unproofed galley, 343 pages
Subject: philosophy, greed, loneliness
Setting: Boston
Genre: suspense novel
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenge: ARC to complete

The blurb says: Things aren't going well for Joseph Geist. He's broke. His graduate school advisor won't talk to him. And his girlfriend has kicked him out of her apartment, leaving him homeless and alone. It's a tough spot for a philosopher to be in, and he's ready to give up all hope of happiness when an ad in the local paper catches his eye. 'Conversationalist wanted', it reads. Which sounds perfect to Joseph. After all, he's never done anything in his life except talk. And the woman behind the ad turns out to be the perfect employer: brilliant, generous, and willing to pay him for making conversation. Before long, Joseph has moved in with her, and has begun to feel very comfortable in her big, beautiful house. So comfortable, in fact, that he would do anything to stay there? 

Jesse Kellerman writes in clear, crisp prose that gives us an immediate picture of Joseph Geist the protagonist in this thriller. This is a very difficult book to review without spoiling. The philosophical discussions the protagonist has with the woman, and with his girlfriend, and above all with himself, are often almost convoluted. Through them we see a tortured, insecure person who has never managed to accomplish anything in his life except to get out of the mid-West and into Harvard where he has wallowed for 8 years. The conversations are so pompous at times that I actually had to resort to a dictionary. The book has a back cover that says “A masterly inventive thriller from a remarkably assured young writer.”

There are 343 pages in my copy. At page 240, I was still waiting for the thriller part to kick in.

Then it did, and I haven’t been on a roller-coaster that exciting or terrifying in my life. It is a spectacular story, told so well that even when things are slowly building, you feel the tension, you sense that something is going to happen, you posit several different scenes, and then BAM! Nothing like I expected, but definitely heart-hammering, page–turning good. The author brings the story to a clean concise denouement that leaves the reader with a sense of justice and sadness.

It could have been, and I suppose in many ways it is, a depressing and sad book. But it is so well written that I came away only saying WOW, what a great story.


  1. I wonder how many people will stick it out until things begin to happen. If I remember right, the author is the son of two very well known mystery novelists so he certainly takes after them. I'm intrigued.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree. How many, including myself, would wait that long for the punch to kick in? I mean you have to give the reader some hint of the excitement that is going to happen to string them along, don't you. I have not read anything by him before..not sure I will start here.

  3. actually, it wasn't bad reading up was again one of those books where I'd have been better off NOT reading the blurb. Then I would have been reading instead of expecting.

  4. When I started reading your review I was thinking it didn't sound very good, but now I'm kind of interested. You said it's an ARC, do you have any idea what date it will be released?


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