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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: TWO DAYS GONE

Two Days Gone
by Randall Silvis
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2017
Paperback, 384pp, $15.99

The information on the back cover and the first inside page of my ARC categorize Two Days Gone as mystery, but while the story falls into that genre for many reasons, it’s as much a psychological suspense novel or thriller as it is a whodunit. Maybe more so.

Here’s the setup: The wife and two children of a successful fiction writer and college professor, an apparently loving husband and father, have been murdered by having their throats slit, and a third child, the baby, was stabbed to death. Now the writer-professor, Thomas Huston, has gone missing, making him the most logical suspect. Huston, who had lost his own parents to violence, wrote novels with dark undercurrents. Had writing been the only thing keeping a lid on hidden vengeful fantasies? Did Huston finally snap? But why would he kill his own family?

Author Randall Silvis gives us two points of view, that of runaway Huston, eluding police by imagining himself a character in a novel-in-progress, and that of Sergeant Ryan DeMarco, investigator in charge of the manhunt and murder investigation. Early on, we learn that the two men know each other and were probably, before Huston’s dark family tragedy, in the early stages of a friendship important to them both, each sensing in the other a sadness that work could never wholly overcome.

Like Huston, DeMarco too had known tragedy. His young son, his only child, had died in a traffic accident, and his marriage subsequently fell apart, also, as his wife plunged into a shadow life of sexual encounters with strangers. Huston dealt with insomnia by taking walks and drives in the middle of the night, while DeMarco dosed his with Jack Daniels and television. Insomnia was routine for both men. Now there is even less sleep for either one, as Thomas is on the run, desperate, and DeMarco resolved to find the fugitive suspect and bring him in.

Most people who knew him, including DeMarco, have a hard time imagining Huston capable of the crime. If not Huston, though, who could the murderer be? A jealous colleague? Someone from the shady clubs Huston was visiting as research for his new novel? Perhaps his notes for that new novel hold clues?

Huston’s preoccupation with Edgar Allan Poe and Vladimir Nabokov play into his own fiction and thus into the novel in which Huston is a fictional character. How much of Huston is in his books? (How much of Silvis is in Huston? Or DeMarco?) Questions like this, asked by DeMarco and answered thoughtfully by one of Huston’s graduate students, Nathan Briessen, give Two Days Gone another level of complexity and interest for readers who are also writers, as well as complicating the investigation for the chief investigator.

We never know where the next chapter of this taut, suspenseful novel will take us. And what feels like a final chord keeps not being – until, of course, at last it is. I did not stay up all night to read the last page, but I confess I got up early the next morning to finish the gripping story. It is very, very well told.

And now I’m curious about Silvis’s two earlier books, both with Poe themes....


Dawn said...

I can't read suspenseful murder stories. I get too creeped out and star seeing bad guys in the shadows. But I like reading ABOUT them.

P. J. Grath said...

This novel does not dwell on blood and gore or icky forensic details, Dawn. I don't do that stuff well, either.