Tag Archives: Jesse Kellerman

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman

Jesse Kellerman’s novel Sunstroke is a fine novel, and Jesse Kellerman is a fine novelist, which is why I was thrilled that my wife bought me a signed first edition for Christmas.  However, it really doesn’t compare to Kellerman’s much darker thriller The Executor (reviewed here).

But to Kellerman’s credit, Sunstroke is his first novel whereas The Executor is his most recent (his 4th novel, I think.)

Sunstroke follows Gloria as she is forced into the job of an amateur detective.  (Whether she is forced by fate or involved because she chooses to insert herself where she isn’t really needed would be a good topic for a character analysis.)  The story starts moments after an earthquake rattles southern California in the middle of the night.  Awake, and unable to fall back asleep, Gloria, a 36-year-old receptionist, decides she might as well walk down to the office to clean up whatever mess is there.   

During her midnight clean-up, Gloria checks the answering machine and finds that her boss left a disturbing, cryptic message saying he was in an accident.  He says he is fine, but the whole thing leaves Gloria very much on edge.  And that is how Gloria begins searching for her boss Carl Perreira, the man she loves. 

Right off, Gloria runs into a few problems.  He’s not missing, he called and left the message.  He’s not dead, again, he called and left the message.  The cops are busy and could care less.  She’s not his wife, and Carl never expressed any interest in Gloria.  What it boils down to is that she has no claim on the man and there is no missing person to report. 

But because Gloria is a truly good, caring person, and she deeply cares for her boss, she keeps looking, even driving all night to Mexico to get some clear answers.  What she finds out is that her boss is not at all who she thought he was.

The mystery of Carl Perrira unravels and Gloria keeps pulling strings long after anyone else would have.  During her sleuthing, we learn quite a bit about Gloria’s life.  This was the most enjoyable part of the story.  Gloria — genuine, sweet, intelligent, convincing– makes for an interesting protagonist.  She is the reason a reader will read this book.  The reader will sympathise with her and enjoy her company. 

Ultimately, this books is 90% excellent thriller, 10% confusing.  As the climax builds to its crescendo, name changes and characters become a swirling fog.  I found it too difficult to keep everyone straight to fully enjoy the twist.    The resolution was satisfying, Gloria does not disappoint, though it did seem like there could have been many other possible resolutions, some more satisfying than others. 

As for adult language, there is a little bit of swearing though rare and not a distraction. 

I strongly recommend The Executor but I can only give Sunstroke a modest recommendation.

Summer Reading Extravaganza: ARCs

Summer Reading Extravaganza?  That’s still going on?

Yes, it is.  Something about having a 7 month old seems to make time disappear.  But with being just a few books away from finishing my reviews of the books I read this summer, maybe by next summer I’ll be all done with this great Extravaganza!

Okay, just a reminder, and ARC is an advanced reading copy.  I am fortunate enough to get a few of these in the mail every couple of months.  Usually, the idea is to get people to read them prior to the release date to stir up buzz and get people to buy the books.  In this case, I’m a few months late for each but if you were so inclined you could still go buy them.

The first book is I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry.  This book was billed as a hilarious collection of essays from one of the funniest men in America.  Well, I’d never heard of him, so his reputation might have been stretched a little.  And as for a hilarious collection of essays, well, it was a collection of essays, but certainly not hilarious. 

In fact, I generally found it not funny.  To be fair, there were times when I did laugh out loud, but on the whole I found his articles boring.  Many of the jokes were forced and cheap.  He played incessantly to the idea that men are pigs and are only interested in boobs.  And while that may be true on many levels, it quickly became old. 

The photo on the cover shows Dave with devil horns and touts him as an immature trouble maker who disregards society’s mores.  Really, he is just a married dad who is a humorist.  There was nothing shocking about this book.  I didn’t even finish it.  And I finish everything.  There is some type A personality quirk in me that prevents me from stopping midway through a book.  Even if the books is absolutely terrible and it takes me a year to read I still will persevere.  Not with this one.  I just didn’t have it in me to read any more.  Sorry Dave, you get a 1 out of 5 stars from me.

ARC number two, however, was a hit.  Jesse Kellerman is apparently an international bestseller, but like Dave, I’d never heard of him.  (Maybe I’m not as much of a bibliophile as I think.)  But I’m a fan now.  I intend to track down the other books of his (I think he has 3 or 4) because I really enjoyed The Executor

Joseph starts out by describing the night his girlfriend threw him out of their apartment for good.  He takes his book end, half of Nietzsche’s head, and a bag with the few clothes he owns.  Joseph is a student at Harvard.  Has been for a while.  He’s been working on this Ph.D in philosophy for a long time, too long, in the eyes of his advisor, and he is starting to lose the privileges he enjoyed as a graduate student and adjunct instructor.  And so Joseph found himself as what he thought was the low point of his life. 

But when he sees an ad for a conversationalist and follows up on it, things start to change in remarkable ways for Joseph.  He meets Alma, a grandmotherly German woman, who simply wants someone with whom to talk about life and philosophy.  Joseph finds it hard to believe his luck when she starts paying him a generous sum.  After some time, she even offers him a room in her home.  This is remarkable for Joseph, and even though social niceties require him to refuse such a kind offer, Alma persists, and gratefully Joseph accepts.  Alma gets her conversationalist close at hand and Joseph gets the use of her extraordinary library (described on pages 79-80 and is exactly the kind of place I’d love to have one day).  During this period of time, Alma and Joseph actually grow quite close and Joseph develops a strong protective attitude on issues that involve Alma.  This is also the time when Alma’s nephew shows up.

Eric, the nephew, was in Alma’s charge when he was a young boy.  But when he became a man he only visited when he needed some money.  He did not hide his intentions and Alma had come to realize that paying him off was just easier.  But it was not easy for Joseph.  The plot really starts to develop and move quickly at this point as Joseph struggles with his possessive feelings for Alma and his rational checking that she really owes him nothing, for he is little more than a stranger to her after all, and he can’t compete with family relations.

Though it takes almost half the book to get to the thriller part of this thriller, it is a perfectly enjoyable journey.  The character development hooks you, and you really care about both Joseph and Alma, and about Joseph’s internal conflicts about how to interpret his relationship with this kindly old woman.  When the action kicked in, a franetic psychological action, I noticed similarities of style from Ellis’ American Psycho as well as a sense of Poe’s The Tale-Tell Heart, both excellent thrillers.  The twist this book takes towards the end is entirely surprising and exciting to watch unfold. 

There is some language, including use of The Big Ef, but there are large, clean sections of the book that are filled with nothing but good plot.  There is also one minor scene, wholly unnecessary, that has mentions of sex. 

This book gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars.