Review: Trouble is Jesse Kellerman's second published book, a thriller that is at best an achievement of style over substance.
Jonah Stem is a medical student in upper Manhattan who, returning home after a particularly grueling day in surgery, encounters a man holding a knife over a woman who has been repeatedly stabbed. Realizing she may die without immediate medical attention, he fends off her attacker who is accidentally stabbed with the knife and dies. Though the woman recovers, Jonah soon finds he's being sued by the dead man's family. To deal with the stress of his medical studies and the pending lawsuit, he turns to Eve Gones, the woman whose life he saved, who has suddenly and unexpectedly turned up in his life. But as he learns more about this mysterious woman, he realizes that she can only complicate his life. When he tries to end their relationship, he finds she will do anything to prevent him from doing so.
Kellerman is an accomplished writer who brings his own style to the narrative. He credibly evokes the strain and stress students of medical school face, the long hours, the lack of respect and indifference from superiors. He's created a complex character with Jonah Stem, and allows the reader to experience the various frustrations in his life: his former fiancée and her father, the endless hours of medical school, his roommate, the lawsuit, and finally, his relationship with Eve Gones. The use of sentence fragments, interfused dialog, even spacing between words on the page, all combine to create the sense of confusion and vexation that Jonah is experiencing. Stylistically, it's exceptionally well done.
Trouble, however, is anything but original. It's not even a good derivative. Kellerman has done virtually nothing to inject anything different or unique into this plot outline, which has been used as the basis for any number of books and screenplays for years. A movie in particular immediately comes to mind. One knows absolutely where this story is heading, and once a scene opens can accurately predict how it will end. Even with the denouement, where the author had a final chance to introduce a twist or something novel, he played it safe and went with the standard ending. It's disappointing that someone with so obvious a talent for composition couldn't trouble himself to come up with something original to write about.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided an ARC of Trouble for this review.
Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Trouble: New York City
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Trouble by Jesse Kellerman
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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