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Sunday, 27 October 2013

EKK rules the MIDWEST USA


Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery set in the Midwest USA

An outstanding work. A book I finished a couple of days ago, and still feel haunted by…

The plot is ‘simple’ and set out, as I am about to set it out, pretty unbelievable. The characters are larger than life and parodies of themselves. The basic narrative stretches credibility to beyond breaking point.

Paul Krovik is a failed building contractor who is holed up in a bunker attached (via a ‘secret passage’ from the pantry) to a house in which he used to live with his wife and children. He loves the house. The house has been bought by Nathanial and Julia who move in with their son, Copley. They have transferred to the Midwest from Boston as Nathanial takes on an executive position at the global HQ of his employers, the somewhat sinister EKK Corporation. The whole half-finished (before Paul ran into financial difficulties) development is on a farm that – following a lynching 100 years’ before – had passed to Louise Washington’s family. Louise still lives illegally in her cottage… her husband having died after being caught between high interest rates and low crop prices, with her being unable to settle his debts.

That is the background to a very disturbing but, as it is told, utterly believable and many layered psychological thriller. Paul returns ghost like, via the ‘secret passage’ to his house most nights – starting by leaving small signs of his activities and moving on to more obvious announcements of his presence. Copley is blamed for what is happening in the house, and is taken for treatment by a psychiatrist - whose numbing drugs begin to make him doubt his own sanity. He suffers at school – a school controlled (as is so much of the environment in which they all live) by EKK. Copley befriends Louise and when her cottage is bulldozed at dawn one day (again by EKK contractors…) Nathanial and Julia invite her to move in with them and be a companion for Copley – in the hope that she will help move him on from his delusions. Louise ends up being the only one who believes Copley and sees for herself the intrusions of Paul…

As Paul goes from someone who is decidedly ‘odd’ to someone who has severe mental health problems, and as Nathanial gets more and more obsessed with ‘curing’ Copley and making him into the son he would wish him to be, the book moves to its quite frightening climax.

Fallen Land is an extraordinary book. The quality of the language and writing is awesome, and the stresses, strains, and perversity of the characters impact every page. The books builds slowly, almost imperceptibly, from a somewhat strange ‘wonder where this will go’ to a completely mad and frightening denouement. EKK is never far from the action, and the book is certainly an allegory for the power and presence of private security in the States. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the main characters – a device that works really well…

No doubt at all that Fallen Land is on our short list for the TripFiction top books of the year 2013. I haven’t read a more enthralling work this year.

Tony and the TripFiction Team

If you have a penchant for thrillers set in the Midwest, just click here for more ... perhaps something by Lee Child or Sara Paretsky or Gillian Flynn might fit the bill...?

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