Saturday, April 25, 2009

Castle by J Robert Lennon

I’m a huge fan of Lennon’s Mailman and Pieces For the Left Hand, so even though I have a long list of books to read, I immediately ordered this one and bumped it to the top of the list when I read about its release.

The story begins when Eric Loesch, a middle-aged loner, moves back to his mid-western hometown of Gerrysburg, where he buys an old fixer-upper on 620-acres of wooded land outside of the small town. Loesch is not a particularly likable man. He is rude to the people he encounters in the town, arrogant and stiff. And we get the sense that he has some rather dark secrets in his background. It’s a promising start to the story, especially with Lennon’s talent for creating quirky, flawed characters and intriguing stories about small-town life.

But about halfway through the book, the story takes a bad turn. Just as it’s getting genuinely creepy (mysterious sounds from the house at night, shadowy figures moving around in the forest), it goes off on two weird tangents, one that would stretch credibility for a Scooby-Doo plot, and a flashback at the end that feels out-of-place and tacked on. The latter, incorporated into the story with more deftness, might have worked and helped explain some of the character’s quirks. But the main plot arc is still so preposterous that I kept looking for signs that it was all an allegory, or a dream, or something other than just a bad story.

I’ll still read anything Lennon puts out, and I give him props for taking a big swing with this one. He just whiffed.

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