Rivalry turns deadly in David Pinto’s compelling, unpredictable ‘Nemesis’
A friendly rivalry turns deadly in “Nemesis” by David Pinto.
Elliot Barrett’s life is an enviable one. He’s a prestigious physician with a thriving practice, a well-appointed home in New York City, a devoted wife, and two loving children. He risks it all when he becomes romantically involved with Lindsey Anderson, the seductive daughter of a patient. When she turns up dead, the police immediately blame Elliot. There is incontrovertible evidence placing him in her apartment and damning if circumstantial evidence suggestive of a sexual affair. Elliot decides to deny the tryst and enlists the help of his best friend, Ted Lapoltsky, a successful lawyer, to defend him. Unbeknownst to Elliot, Ted also had an affair with Lindsey and wanted to leave his wife for her, a design she squarely rejected. Ted and Lindsey had become locked in a passionate argument about it, and when she revealed she was also seeing Elliot, Ted grabbed her in a jealous fury, causing her to hit her head and sink into unconsciousness. While Ted defends Elliot, he’s careful to avoid even a hint of self-incrimination. He also revels in the opportunity to see his prudishly judgmental rival publicly disgraced. Elliot’s world begins to crumble around him. His wife’s trust wanes, his family is mortified, and his professional reputation’s tarnished. Debut author Pinto meticulously constructs a view of Ted’s long-standing envy. He worked indefatigably to rise above his inauspicious beginnings while Elliot was born into privilege — and yet Ruth, Elliot’s wife, looks down on him as a coarse careerist. The prose is plain but the plot a compelling one; it’s consistently tense and defies expectations. However, Pinto has a grating tendency to provide far too much explanatory commentary, apparently reluctant to allow the reader to draw their own inferences from the action: “How ironic that Elliot had to meet Lindsey to introduce him to the temptations he was preaching against. Apparently Elliot was after this hormone effect also. How odd that we both ended up enjoying the same woman. Elliot had fallen under her spell.”
“Nemesis” is a captivating legal thriller that’s impressively unpredictable.
(Pinto will speak and sign copies of his book starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)
Pleasing to the eye, engaging to the heart
A strange encounter with the natural world ignites an artist’s career in Harriet Paige’s “Man With a Seagull on His Head.”
On an English beach one otherwise unremarkable day in June 1976, Ray Eccles is struck on the head by a plummeting sea gull. That mishap inexplicably transforms the furloughed local government The Austin AmericanStatesman has teamed with Kirkus Reviews to bring you select reviews from one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery. For more reviews from Kirkus, visit kirkusreviews.com. photocopy machine operator, so desperate for stimulation he believes an unexploded bomb beneath the sand “might be good company,” into an acclaimed artist, obsessed with capturing, in a series of portraits all entitled “She,” the image of the unknown woman who was the sole witness to the startling event that triggers his metamorphosis. Paige’s slim debut novel is the elegiac story of the enigmatic Ray and the handful of characters who gravitate to his equally mysterious work. They include George and Grace Zoob, sophisticated collectors of outsider art, who discover Ray’s “intimate, magical and strange” painting when he’s first producing it only on the walls of his small home in Southend-on-Sea, using everything from food to his own blood and semen; their daughter, Mira; and Jennifer Mulholland, Ray’s inadvertent muse, who’s trapped in a companionable but sterile marriage, her quiet despair only deepened by the memory of the moment her life collided with Ray’s at the seaside. Whether it’s Grace, who “felt herself being filled in, fashioned anew, a second, truer skin knitting itself around her like a healing wound” as she models for Ray, or Jennifer, aching with the realization, when she reflects on her long union, that “the longer they were married the less they knew each other,” Paige exercises impressive restraint in her emotionally precise portrait of ordinary people groping for something extraordinary to fill a hole in their lives. Only some of the novel’s principal characters even approach that goal, but as Paige depicts it in a moving climax at London’s Tate Modern gallery, great art can serve as a “direct, sensuous response to the world” that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but also profoundly engaging to the heart.
Paige’s debut is a gentle fable about the mystery of artistic creativity.
“Nemesis” by David Pinto