Friday, April 13, 2007

The Double Bind

What do you say about a mystery novel that sets itself up as a successor to The Great Gatsby? The Double Bind, by Christopher Bohjalian, populates a world living in the shadows of the roaring twenties, where Jay Gatsby’s palatial home is now a country club, and Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s son, Bobbie Crocker, is a homeless drifter who left behind his legacy – a collection of photos – to the homeless shelter that got him off the street.

Laurel Estabrook, a worker at the shelter, looks through the photos and sees one that possibly contains an image of her on the eve of a brutal assault that left her nearly dead. Laurel begins a journey to learn more about this mysterious photographer, and to find out how one born to a life of unimaginable privilege can fall so low. This journey is one that changes Laurel forever.

I picked this book up with some trepidation. I don’t really like the idea of a novel picking up where Gatsby left off. Do we really need to know what happened to the Buchanans after Gatsby’s murder? But the strong reviews left me intrigued and I picked it up, and after a slow start, I found I had trouble putting the book down. And I nearly threw it across the room when I finished it.

Bohjalian does a fantastic job building suspense as Laurel learns more about Bobbie’s past and begins feeling the walls close in on her. As she withdraws into Crocker’s past more and more, her friends and family begin to worry about her.

However, the book runs right off the tracks when it gets to the “twist” ending. Some of it is foreshadowed nicely throughout the book, with subtle clues placed throughout. Unfortunately, Bohjalian tries taking it too far, and largely ruins what was building into a taut thriller.

I don’t want to go into too much detail regarding the ending of the book, other than to say that it’s the interactions and point of view that hurt this book the most. Had it been written in the first person, it would have been a much stronger – and satisfying conclusion.


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