Saturday, March 4, 2023

A Flaw in the Design

A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates
3/21/23; 304 pages
Random House

A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Gil Duggan learns some shocking news. His sister and her husband have been killed in a car accident and their 17 year-old son, Matthew is going to live with Gil and his family. Gil, a creative writing professor at Essex College, his wife Molly, an artist, and his two daughters Ingrid and Chloe are living in Vermont, far from the privileged life in NYC that Matthew is accustom to. With Matthew, whose parents were incredibly wealthy, also comes an unbelievable monthly stipend that could help Gil's family enormously.

The problem is that ever since a life-threatening incident with one of his daughters, Gil dislikes and does not trust Matthew. He was estranged from his sister and her husband since that event seven years earlier, and hasn't seen Matthew since then. There were earlier encounters with Matthew that indicated he was a troubled child. Now Matthew, who seems to be intelligent, urbane, and charming, will be living with them, but can Gil trust him?

The descriptive writing is absolutely excellent in this debut novel and provides the impetus for the apprehension and tension to build and grow in the narrative. The question is whether it is Gil projecting his feelings onto Matthew or if Matthew really is a psychopath. Actually, at first it is Gil's resentment, suspicion and constant assessment of Matthew's every word or action that drives the plot and makes Gil an unlikable character, but soon doubts will arise about Matthew, especially when Matthew join's Gil's creative writing class and turns in stories that seem to be about imagined deaths Gil's family.

Including the real written stories within the narrative where imagined stories abound works very well in A Flaw in the Design. The final denouement wasn't quite as impactful as anticipated, but this is still a very good novel and definitely worth reading. 4.5 stars

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

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