The Executor

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Title: The Executor
Author: Jesse Kellerman
Pages: 341
Release Date: April 1, 2010
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group)

Jesse Kellerman's The Executor is a dedication to philosophy and the thought of free will. This theme runs rampant throughout this psychological thriller that will draw the reader in, inevitably rendering the reader tense and conceivably disturbed.

Harvard grad student, Joseph Geist, finds himself all of a sudden with nothing. His thesis is without direction and he no longer has the funding to continue working on it. His advisor isn't interested anyway. Joseph's girlfriend, Yasmina, has kicked him out of the home they shared, and he has no financial means to support himself. Out of desperation, Joseph answers an ad for a conversationalist. He meets the venerable Alma Spielmann who pays him exorbitantly for the pleasure of a few hours a day of intelligent conversation. Joseph is immediately captivated by her knowledge and sophistication. Soon after, Alma offers Mr. Geist, as she refers to him, room and board in exchange for his continued conversations. Joseph's admiration for Alma turns into a strange and perplexing love, bordering obsession. So, naturally, Joseph reacts protectively when Alma's greedy nephew begins to come around for what Joseph believes is only financial purposes. What follows are a course of events Joseph quickly loses control of, yet which undeniably affect everything about his life and questions his philosophical beliefs.

It has to be said that in The Executor (at least, as this is the only novel of his I've read) Kellerman has displayed his mastery over the art of story telling and use of language. The manner in which he chose and placed his words made the physical act of reading savory. The pace of the story was fitting with the plot. The majority of the novel was written in first person, but one section transitions to the rarely used second person tense. The author's use of this technique in that section helped increase the anxiety of the character, which in turn, intensified the experience for the reader. Psychological thrillers have the tendency to scare me as the reader, but not in the fun kind of scare. Rather, they leave me uneasy and unsure. I had a moment of amusement near the end of this book when I made a realization about the author's ability to draw me in to feel what the character was feeling. I, personally, didn't care much for Joseph. He irritated me with his ironic lack of ambition -- failing to work a "real" job or sufficiently support himself. I didn't feel any empathy toward him. But near the end of this book, I felt a significant amount of perturbation and realized I had, without meaning to, completely related to the character and placed myself in his shoes. Unfortunately for Joseph, I was able to sigh in relief in remembering that I didn't need to feel the distress he was at that point in the book. For me, this was a mark of talent on the author's part.

Based on my thoughts as I've processed them to this point, I have to admit that Kellerman's latest novel is well done and fits the genre well. However, I wasn't extremely fond of it myself. Part of this may be due to my expectations of more suspense . The plot itself was fairly simple while I prefer a more involved and complex one. And the relationship between between Alma and Joseph was too weird for me. I believe it may have been the intention to leave their relationship somewhat ambiguous, but it left me feeling, for lack of a better word, creeped out.

The Executor is likely more for fans of psychological thriller specifically -- those who enjoy having their minds intelligibly twisted and made somewhat uneasy. This book would also be interesting to those who enjoy philosophy. The touch on free will talk isn't so much that non-philosophians will be utterly bored, but it's enough that it may spark some debate for those who enjoy it. This book certainly isn't for everyone, but it was well written and nicely done.

This review will also be posted at Luxury Reading.


dkm1981 said...

Is Jesse any relation to Jonathon and Faye Kellerman do you know? I've read work by both of them and I know that one of their children is a writer.

Jenny said...

dkm -- Yup, he's their son!

Juju at Tales of said...

Great review!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Sounds like a book up my alley. Thank you for the review. I've never heard of the book before. ann

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I've been a fan of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman for a long time...especially Jonathan's Alex Delaware series.

So when I first heard that Jesse had written a book, I had to read it. I have now read three of them...Trouble, Sunstroke, and I just finished The Genius.

His style and subject matter do pull the reader in, for sure. I'm itching to read this one.

Jenny said...

juju -- thanks. =)

Ann -- If you're into this genre you'll probably like it!

Laurel -- I doubt I'll get to his others that soon, but I assume that if you liked those you'll like this one!

Trisha said...

I absolutely adore the premise of this book. I have to admit I don't read a lot of psychological thrillers, but this one sounds fascinating.

christina said...

Sounds like a nifty book find!

Emidy said...

This is an interesting-sounding book, although I'm not sure if I'd enjoy it. I like psychological thrillers, but this might be a bit too philosophical for me! Great review all the same.

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