Translated by Imogen Taylor
Henry wakes up on his thirty-sixth birthday in the bed of a new acquaintance named Martha, and quietly gathers his clothing to make his escape. He has a habit of sleeping with strangers and disappearing with their cash, but this time he finds a manuscript and starts reading. From the very first sentence, Henry senses that the author is telling his story: a thriller about a man with no emotional attachments and a dark secret. Instead of sneaking out, Henry cooks breakfast for Martha and immediately moves in. Martha seems quite content with the new arrangement and allows him to send her manuscript to a publisher. Her only condition is that everything should appear in his name.
Eight years later, Henry is enjoying fame and fortune as the author of a string of bestsellers. He and Martha are a productive partnership: Henry charms everyone with his winning manners and good looks, while she writes in private. In their own way, they are happy. But now Henry is sitting in a car with his glamorous lover Betty, and right before him is a harbinger of doom: an ultrasound image of an amphibious creature staring at him malevolently from one eye. The news of his fatherhood threatens to wreck his marriage, deprive him of his future income, and expose him as a fraud. His first thought is to engineer a fatal car crash, but Betty is in the driving seat and he would have to swap places: he spares her – for the moment. But then Martha vanishes unexpectedly and Henry is obliged to cover up her disappearance. Only one chapter is missing from her latest manuscript and Martha has left a handwritten note: Can you guess how it ends?
Henry is a murderous sociopath who manipulates everyone around him – including us. The police are after him, a stalker is trailing him, and the publisher wants the final chapter, but he manages to stay one step ahead, deflecting suspicion through charm, misdirection and lies. After numerous darkly comic reversals, Henry leads a police officer to the original crime scene, but how much should we believe of his story? And what really happened to Martha? This twisty thriller is enormous fun.
Text Publishing, 2015, 240 pp.