The Fall Guy
by James Lasdun (read by Peter Brooke)
“You know that feeling when you’ve forgotten something?” So asks Charlie, a wealthy New Yorker, at the start of James Lasdun’s excellent third novel. The question could apply to the text of this literary thriller, which leaves the reader with the nagging feeling that something vital is missing. This boils down to one question: who is Lasdun’s fall guy? Charlie, who has beautiful houses and a beautiful wife, Chloe, but can’t decide whether he wants Debussy or Plan B on the stereo? Or his cousin Matthew, whom Charlie invites to be his chef? Matthew also adores Chloe, although the exact dimensions of that adoration remain hazy. The noir possibilities of this premise (hidden desire, money, family, class, power) slither elegantly to the surface. The only drawback is Peter Brooke, who doesn’t read so much as declaim the opening chapters.