There are many negative reviews for this book on Goodreads, but I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed it. The twists and surprises are constant, and I didn’t guess what had happened on August 30, 1975.
At first it seemed that the murderer was Caleb, who was obsessed with Nola, and we later find out that he wrote her the letters Nola thought came from Harry. He spied on her all the time, and he lived his love for her vicariously through the love affair between Harry and Nola. Like Stern first said, Caleb was a good man who had been unlucky in life. Some thugs beat him up to a pulp, and that was why he was disfigured and had speech problems. We learn later that one of those thugs was Stern, and that was why he gave him the job to atone for his wrong deeds. And it was Luther Caleb who helped Nola that fateful day in 1975, but by doing so, he lost his life.
I could never have guessed who the killers were. There were clues about Travis’s violent ways, but I never thought he and Pratt were responsible for all these crimes. Not only did they kill Nola, but also Deborah Cooper and poor Luther. I think they were horrible even if they didn’t plan to kill these people. Their subsequent cover-up made everything much worse, and the fact that they were supposed to work to get people respect the law also made their crimes more hideous. Jenny wasn’t much better; even though she was not responsible for her husband’s crimes, she was ready to escape and let her father take the blame. That was quite despicable.
Another twist I didn’t suspect is Nola’s mental problems. Like Marcus, I thought that her mother was alive, but instead she had died a long time ago in a fire that Nola herself started. The girl was schizophrenic, and Harry planned to get her help. That was the main reason for him to want to elope with her. Her father wouldn’t find her help, so he wanted to do what her father was unable to do. Nola was delusional and had split personality, believing that her mother was alive and she inflicted herself the bruises some people could see on her skin. Yet, despite her mental problems, she was a nice girl who was ready to do anything for the man she loved. She went to Pratt and compromised herself so that Pratt wouldn’t do anything against Harry after Tamara accused him of being a paedophile. And she agreed to pose for Luther naked so that Stern would allow Harry to stay in the house for free. I think she was a good character, but her mental problems led her astray, and then she was unlucky to find an untimely death when she found herself in a complicated situation.
Another surprise was to know that Harry didn’t write his masterpiece; it was Luther Caleb, and he simply had the manuscript because Luther gave it to him, wanting some advice. When Caleb was found dead in the depths of the lake in Massachusetts, Harry decided to send the manuscript as his own. So in the last conversation with Marcus he dubs himself a fake. It is sad that Harry decided that after what happened, he couldn’t continue his friendship with Marcus. The end is quite bittersweet.
I really loved the book, and I enjoyed guessing what had happened without success. I like it when writers manage to surprise me with their plots.