A Flaw in the Design
by Nathan Oates
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Pub Date 21 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 07 Jun 2023
Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House
“An absolute page-turner . . . I read it in a single sitting.”—Miranda Cowley Heller, bestselling author of The Paper Palace
The cleverest psychopaths hide in plain sight.
Gil is living a quiet life as a creative writing professor in a bucolic Vermont town, when he receives some shocking news: His sister and her husband have been killed in a car accident, and their only son is coming to live with him and his family.
Gil and his wife are apprehensive about taking in seventeen-year-old Matthew. Yes, he has just lost both his parents, but they haven’t seen him in seven years—and the last time the families were together, Matthew lured their young daughter into a terrifying, life-threatening situation. Since that incident, Gil has been estranged from his sister and her flashy, wealthy banker husband.
Now Matthew is their charge, living under their roof.
The boy seems charming, smart, and urbane, if strangely unaffected by his parents’ deaths. Gil hopes they can put the past behind them, though he’s surprised when Matthew signs up for his creative writing class. Then Matthew begins turning in chilling stories about the imagined deaths of Gil’s family and his own parents. Bewildered and panicked, Gil ultimately decides he must take matters into his own hands—before life imitates art.
Told in limber, mesmerizing prose, A Flaw in the Design is a twisting novel of suspense that brilliantly explores the tensions surrounding class, family, and the drive to control one’s own story.
"A highly literary yet suspenseful debut from Oates, who weaves a stunning tale of obsession, with a surprising ending that begs for a sequel. Perfect for fans of Mary Kubica and Shari Lapena."
“Brilliantly constructed and psychologically astute, this novel had me turning pages late into the night and left me reeling in the aftermath of its stunning conclusion. Bravo!”
—Antoine Wilson, author of Mouth to Mouth
"Menace and mendacity vie with the mundane in this skillfully told tale about ambition and grief and envy. A wealthy, smarmy nephew, an aging, mid-list writer charged with his care, two daughters, the long Vermont winter - what could go wrong? A Flaw In the Design is an impressive debut. Cue the sequel."
—Alice McDermott, author of The Ninth Hour
"Get ready for a wild ride. Brutal and compelling, A Flaw in the Design is the story of a family driven toward destruction, as a father takes custody of the nephew he fears will wreck his life. This novel swerves and shocks before smashing into you, a T-bone collision you can hold in your hands."
—Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
"With increasing tension and growing paranoia, A Flaw in the Design explores the threat of "the other" while moving towards an inexorable truth: anyone obsessed with "the other" is actually the most dangerous person of all. A gripping, twisty psychological thriller about the destructiveness of toxic masculinity hell-bent on protecting its own. I couldn't put it down."
—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet and Fierce Little Thing
“A Flaw in the Design is a literary thriller of the highest order. Oates manages, with wisdom and insight, to explore the vulnerability of parenthood, the economic injustice of New York City, middle-age compromise, and the fallibility of storytelling, all while telling a heart-pounding tale that commanded my attention from the first sentence to the last.”
–Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir
“This suspenseful debut novel keeps the reader on tenterhooks in a fearful family drama. Oh, this demands a sequel!”
–Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
"What happens when a (possibly murderous) sociopath takes a writing workshop? This is the premise of Nathan Oates's delicious, inexorable, fast-paced tale of obsession--a thriller that will keep you reading till the end."
—Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs
“Phenomenal. A highly enjoyable Russian doll of a story. Impossible to put down. A remarkable debut.”
—Lisa Ballantyne, bestselling author of The Guilty One
"Astonishingly good. A Flaw in the Design deserves to be a massive hit. A brilliant premise, a pulse-pounding plot, gorgeous language - this book has it all."
—Sarah Pekkanen, New York Times bestselling author of Gone Tonight
"A mesmerizing literary thriller, full of atmosphere, perfectly observed characterization and a plot that relentlessly corkscrews to a brilliant dénouement."
—Phillipa East, bestselling author of Little White Lies
"This is SO up my street. Gil is estranged from his wealthy sister, as her son once tried to drown Gil's daughter when they were kids. But when his sister dies, Gil adopts the would-be-murderer. LOVE IT."
—Joanna Cannon, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheeps
"Nathan Oates' debut A Flaw in the Design is not only a deep dive into the things that can rock the cradle of a family, but also an absolute page-turner. I read it in a single sitting."
—Miranda Cowley Heller, bestselling author of The Paper Palace
"[A] gripping psychological thriller... This immersive page-turner cleverly juxtaposes the writing of short fiction with the production of stories in people’s minds. Oates is definitely a writer to watch."