Penzler Pick, April 2002:
Already a sensation in his native England, this first novel by expatriate James Lasdun is one of the most disturbing and compelling books you are likely to read this year.
The protagonist, Lawrence Miller, is himself an expat teaching gender studies at a small college located just outside New York City. He is a member of the sexual harassment committee which meets on a regular basis to walk that fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous of political correctness.
Miller's well-ordered life starts to disintegrate one day when he takes a book from the shelf in his office to find that the bookmark has been moved several pages although, as far as he knows, nobody has visited his office. An easily explained lapse of memory perhaps, but Miller decides he will discuss it with the therapist he has been seeing in Manhattan since his wife left him. He is shocked as he approaches her office to see the therapist walking towards him, but she turns off towards Central Park before he can speak to her and he then loses sight of her. When he arrives at her office, however, she is waiting for him as usual and assures him that she has not left her office; in fact, she is always with another patient before Miller's appointment.
So begins the disorientation of Lawrence Miller. He has his little obsessions, of course--he won't pick up the messages on his answering machine, for instance, in order to convince himself that while he was out his wife tried to call him. Still in love with her, he hopes that she will call and want to return to him. But this is just a game he plays, part of his very human nature. He is in no way the sort of man who is paranoid or imagines conspiracies, but the unexplained incidents seem to be increasing.
Miller tries to rationalize what is happening, but he can't help thinking, nor can we, that he has become the target of somebody who wishes him harm. And when a series of murders takes place, Miller begins to suspect that he is being set up to take the blame for these murders by a devious and diabolical mind.
Lawrence Miller struggles to loosen the hold his pursuers have on him, but the more he struggles the more he appears to be drowning. Try to sleep after reading his terrifying story. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
A lonely, eccentric New York academic discovers his office is also home to a deranged squatter in this startling, brilliantly mysterious debut novel by poet and short story writer Lasdun. Alerted by misplaced bookmarks, deleted computer files and a dirty bed sheet under his desk, Brit Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at Arthur Clay College, becomes convinced that a stranger is camping out nightly in his office. Though preoccupied by his wife's recent decampment and his membership on the college's sexual harassment committee, Lawrence fixates on the illustrious Professor Trumilcik, an Eastern European womanizer and ex-board member, who went mad on campus one afternoon and never returned. Could he be the uninvited guest? The shocking news that several area women have been found brutally beaten to death heightens Lawrence's hysteria. Erratic behavior ruins a date with Elaine, the school attorney, and confuses his relationship with his therapist. When a heavy metal pipe falls out of his briefcase, Lawrence has to wonder: could this be the weapon used in the killings? As reality slips and slides, Lawrence, in full paranoia mode, comes to believe that Trumilcik is framing him for the murders. References to the works of Kafka and to mystical pharmacology add depth and insight, though a few key tense moments are squelched by lengthy exposition of the protagonist's compulsivethought processes. Introspective readers with a taste for the bizarre will appreciate Lasdun's eerily elusiveconclusion, but those seeking definitive closure will be left scratching their heads. Rights sold in France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the U.K.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.