Review: Andrew Davidson's debut novel, The Gargoyle, will likely elicit strong reactions from readers, some of whom will love it, others not so much. Impossible to categorize, it's best described as cross-genre, a paranormal psychological romantic thriller, but unique in its own way.
The narrator is an unnamed man living in an unnamed city (though for many reasons, Los Angeles comes to mind when reading it). He's been in a horrific car accident of his own doing—he was high on cocaine and drunk on bourbon at the time—resulting in severe burns over most of his body. He survives, but just barely. He proceeds to address the reader directly, initially relating in alternating passages, his life story, his recovery from the accident, and his plans to kill himself once he leaves the hospital. A strange woman then comes to visit him, Marianne Engel, who tells him they were together in a previous life, in medieval Germany, and their lives today are eerily similar to what they were in the 13th century. Of course he doesn't believe her, but the over months of his recovery he's attracted to her, and comes to accept, even embrace, her story, even if he doesn't think it to be true.
There's a sense here that The Gargoyle was not written by a single author, but by a number of people in some sort of non-linear fashion, as if they were given an outline of a scene and asked to fill in the details without knowing what the movie was about. Some are writing the narrator's past, some the present. Some take the role of the narrator's intellect, others write Marianne's past and present lives. Still more write tales that occur in other times and places. All these stories, many of which are stylistically different from each other, are then interweaved with little attempt to add logical transitions, relationships, or cohesion. Then there are the numerous platitudes, some of which are groan-worthy: "Your skin was the emblem of your identity, the image that you presented to the world. But it was never who you really are. Being burned doesn't make you any less—or more—human. It only makes you burnt." A long way of saying, "beauty is only skin deep".
The Gargoyle really can't be said to be good or bad, it simply is. Like some modern art, many will find it brilliant, insightful, introspective, provocative; others will say it's just a black dot on a white background.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a trade paperback edition of The Gargoyle for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
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The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Publisher: Anchor Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2009
List Price: $15.00