Fresh from finishing university in England, Adam Woods arrives in Venice to begin a new chapter in his life. He soon secures employment as the personal assistant of Gordon Crace -- a famous expatriate novelist who makes his home in a dank and crumbling palazzo, surrounded by fabulous works of art, piles of unanswered correspondence and the memories of his former literary glory.
Before long Adam becomes indispensable to the feeble Crace, and he finds himself at once drawn to and repelled by his elderly employer's brilliant mind and eccentric habits. As Adam comes to learn more about the scandal that brought Crace to Venice years ago, he realizes he has stumbled upon the raw material that could launch his own literary career and makes a bold decision: He will secretly write the famous author's biography. But outsmarting Crace is easier said than done, and the two soon find themselves locked in a bitter contest over the right to determine how the story of Crace's life will end. Against the haunting backdrop of the serene city, the two men engage in a ruthless game of cat and mouse that builds to a breathtaking and unexpected conclusion.
Starred Review. Patricia Highsmith, the subject of British journalist Wilson's acclaimed biography Beautiful Shadow, would be delighted by this standout debut novel, which heralds a major new talent in the psychological thriller genre. After a tutoring job in Venice falls through, aspiring novelist Adam Woods appears to luck into the perfect position there--as personal assistant to the reclusive Gordon Crace, an acclaimed writer whose life is shrouded in mystery and who's published only one novel. Crace, who's locked himself away from the glories of his chosen city, insists Woods abide by a set of strict rules, including not mentioning Crace's literary success. In clearing out the author's mess of a study, Woods finds two letters that hint at a dark secret in Crace's past, and begins to discreetly probe his employer's past, with calamitous results. Wilson brilliantly and subtly introduces doubt in the reader as to Woods's reliability and character before delivering some potent final plot twists. Fans of classic Hitchcock will be richly rewarded. (Feb.)
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February 20, 2007
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