Pub Date 23 Jun 2015
A literary crime thriller with “a clever plot that always surprises, told with dark humor and dry wit” (The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice), this brilliant debut follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.
Henry Hayden seems like someone you might admire, or even come to think of as a friend. A famous bestselling author. A loving and devoted husband. A generous and considerate neighbor. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. Only he and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.
When his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant, it seems his carefully conceived façade is about to crumble. And on a rain-soaked night at the edge of a dangerous cliff, his permanent solution becomes his most terrible mistake.
Now not only are the police after Henry but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man, and he works out an ingenious plan, weaving lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. Still, the noose tightens.
Smart, sardonic, and compulsively readable, this is the story of a man whose cunning allows him to evade the consequences of his every action, even when he’s standing on the edge of the abyss.
German scriptwriter Arango’s exceptional first novel, a highly entertaining thriller, focuses on Henry Hayden, a successful author who lives in a “nondescript coastal town.” Wealthy beyond imagination, he appears to be a loving husband to his wife, Martha, and is so humble that people automatically like him. In truth, the vain and selfish Henry is seeing a mistress, Betty Hansen, who’s also his editor, and a few other women besides. As for those bestsellers, Henry never wrote one word—Martha did, allowing him to take credit as long as her authorial role remained a secret. Henry’s carefully constructed world is in danger when Betty becomes pregnant. His decision to take drastic action results in an accidental death. Dodging the police inquiry and an old acquaintance determined to expose his erratic past, Henry takes charge of his own fate. Wry humor punctuates this insightful look at a soulless man.
Having become a famous author by publishing his wife's brilliant crime novels with his name on the cover, Henry Hayden creates his own devious fictions to avoid detection in a series of mysterious deaths. Psychologically damaged since childhood—when his father, who abused him for bed-wetting, tripped down the basement stairs and died on the same day his mother disappeared—Hayden is a drifter with no human connections. Waking up hung over after sleeping with a stranger, Martha, he discovers a manuscript under her bed and is so impressed that he sends it off to publishers as his own. Martha, an oddball who writes books in the middle of the night and tosses the perfectly composed manuscripts in the cellar, is fine with that. After Hayden marries her, the first novel becomes a huge bestseller. Living large with a sports car and fancy clothes, he has an affair with his editor, Betty, who becomes pregnant with his child. It's only a matter of time, or so it seems, before he's exposed for the fake he is. But he remains master of his made-up world, even with the police breathing down his neck after first Martha and then Betty disappear and even with a stalker who knows everything about his past seeking vengeance. A cross between James M. Cain and Patricia Highsmith, with a wide streak of sardonic humor, this is one wicked tale. You keep waiting for the author to slip, plot-wise, but, as with his protagonist, you wait in vain. German screenwriter Arango's first novel is superior pulp, with schemers all around and plenty to say about fame, identity, and mortality.