Book Review: TRUST NO ONE by Paul Cleave
Atria Books, Digital Loan, Publication Date: August 4, 2015
If you are the sort of reader of thrillers and crime fiction who prides yourself on being able to figure out “whodunit” before the end of the story, then TRUST NO ONE by Paul Cleave will test your mettle. Paul Cleave’s latest novel is a magnificent psychological thriller which contains all the right elements of the genre. The characters, plot, action, tension, suspense, plot and pacing are flawless. Jerry Grey, the protagonist, age 49, lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is happily married to Sandra, age 48, and they have one daughter Eva, age 24.
The opening scene is precise, subtle yet powerful. Jerry is at the police station being interviewed by a detective. He has confessed to a murder which occurred thirty years ago, the murder of Suzan, a nineteen-year-old woman with whom Jerry was infatuated as a young man. Suzan’s boyfriend was convicted of the crime, and sent to jail. Jerry needs to confess and he wants absolution. He claims Suzan was the first of many victims, and tells the detective:
“Let the monster have a voice.”
The detective gives Jerry a book called A Christmas Murder. Then the detective explains that Jerry is a crime writer who, under the pseudonym “Henry Cutter” has written twelve bestsellers (the thirteenth is now being edited by his publisher). Jerry is confessing to a murder which he created and included in the crime novel in his hands.
Jerry has had a good life, but the bottom has fallen out because he has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. In order to keep track of his rapid decline, Jerry keeps what he calls a “Madness Journal.” He wants to let “future Jerry” know what “present Jerry” is like, and what he is doing.
“…this is a journal to let you know about your life before the disease dug in its claws and ripped your memories to shreds. This journal is about your life, about how blessed you’ve been.”
Jerry’s fear of losing his mind is no fantasy, because he actually is losing his mind. When young women are murdered, and each is murdered very much like the fictional killings Jerry has written, the characters and the reader are left gaping over who the killer is. Every single character is suspect.
Cleave’s Jerry Grey is one of the most unreliable narrators ever created. The narrative switches from the third-person narrative to the first-person seamlessly. Cleave’s prose is crisp, his dialogue crackles, and the entries in Jerry’s journal, as well as Jerry’s interior monologues, are utterly absorbing. While the plot revolves around quite a lot that is grim and disturbing, Cleave’s talent is such that he manages to include wit and humor with panache. Given Jerry’s Alzheimer’s, the reader is never sure whether what is being told is only what is being shown, or if what is being shown is really what is being told. The narrative pace slows down when necessary, but, as a whole, charges to the finish. The lesson the novel offers is in the title; how much can you trust anyone, even yourself? TRUST NO ONE is a mesmerizing and brilliant thriller which will keep your own brain sharp.
Paul Cleave, the author of this stand-alone novel, lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, which is the setting of his award-winning crime novels. These novels have been translated into twelve different languages, and sold over one million copies. I believe Mr. Cleave will have much success in the United States for many years to come.
Thank you, Atria Books, for loaning me a digital copy through NetGalley.