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The Fall Guy by James Lasdun

The Fall Guy

by James Lasdun

Quick take

As the book's perspective widens, things start to veer off course, and this is where I started reading really, really fast.

Why I love it

My favorite hobby, if I'm being honest, is hyper-analyzing. I love analyzing my own life decisions as well as those of my friends. (Sometimes I even offer my own uninvited opinions —to mixed effect!) Being a habitual reader provides a welcoming outlet, a continuous stream of new 'friends' to analyze.

And in this sense, The Fall Guy is doozy! It's a deeply psychological novel where much of the action takes place inside the characters' heads. As tension builds over the course of a long hot summer at a country house in upstate New York, there was much for me to scrutinize. And when—BANG—things boil over to disastrous effect, it's that much more satisfying.

Matthew, The Fall Guy's protagonist, has been to a therapist or two, and that means he's also been instructed to assess his actions. A tumultuous upbringing saw him plucked from the English upper class when his father disappeared and left him penniless. Now, Matthew, a chef talented in the kitchen but a failure as a restauranteur, struggles to find comfortable footing in his adult years. Knowing his backstory made his insecurities endearing to me and yet, something seems a bit off with Matthew...

When Matthew heads to his cousin Charlie's summer home, presumably to provide entertainment and delicious meals for Charlie and his wife, harmless miscommunications fester and old harmful family dynamics reemerge. This is the stuff of amazing armchair-therapist fodder. At first, I read the book slowly, wondering if Matthew's grasp on his own motivations and others' actions was as accurate as he himself seems to think.

At a certain point, as the book's perspective widens, things start to veer off course, and this is where I started reading really, really fast. To put it briefly: shit hits the fan. Though the fan is totally not what you think, it's like a different fan in a different room, or maybe a different house altogether. That, my friends, is how the second half of this book catches you off guard, changes gears, and becomes a thriller.

To the credit of James Lasdun's amazing and unexpected character development, I had a lot wrong. I don't want to rob you of the enjoyment of uncovering this book's secrets on your own. The enjoyment is real, it's well-earned, and it might result in you reading the second half of the novel approximately 8x faster than you read the first. Meanwhile, I'll be over here learning how to knit.

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Member ratings (1,481)

  • Sara S.

    Brunswick, GA

    The story never lost my interest. I was devoted to finding out what happened with each little twist. I loved every second. Definitely a book that pulled me right in and i didnt want to put it down.

  • Michelle L.

    Brooklyn, NY

    The suspense in this book builds quick. The mind of a disturbed individual is conveyed so well, leaving you at times thinking that it isn't Matthew, it's everyone else...isn't it?

  • Shelbi L.

    Seattle, WA

    It’s better the second time around. The first time I read behaviors as innocent and helpful but the second time I recognized the dysfunction from the other side of the mirror.

  • Lindsey S.

    Gilbert, AZ

    The narrator was strange and creepy at times, but there were also instances where I felt bad for him. The unique point of view was very thought-provoking for me.

  • Jeanne W.

    Evansville, IN

    Enjoyed the read. I did figure out the ending somewhat before the last page but overall it was a good book. I would recommend the book to others.