The Executor Review
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Joseph Geist is the ultimate picture of the modern-day philosopher: smart but shabby, proud but homeless. After his girlfriend, Yasmina, throws him out of their apartment, the perpetual student finds himself moving his duffle bag of belongings and his Nietzsche bookend from apartment to apartment, sleeping on friends’ couches. To add insult to injury, his “so-called advisor” has finally had enough of his procrastination, and she’s had him thrown out of Harvard’s philosophy department.

It seems that Joseph has hit rock-bottom when he sees an ad in the Crimson, seeking a “Conversationalist.” That’s how he meets Alma Spielman, a sharp old woman who welcomes him into her home for tea and paid conversation. A few weeks later, she even invites him to move into a room in her spacious old home.

Joseph couldn’t be happier with his new arrangement. In Alma, he’s found a true friend—someone who respects him for his intellect. But his happiness soon comes into question, when he meets Alma’s greedy nephew, Eric.

The Executor isn’t the novel that you might expect. It’s an unusual blend of literary fiction and psychological thriller—a character-driven story that slowly grows more and more suspenseful the deeper you get.

At the same time, though, this isn’t a story that grabs you by the throat from the first page and refuses to let go. You won’t find yourself gasping for breath as you turn the pages. Instead, it takes its time. It builds slowly, deliberately—even agonizingly. Before the story really begins, you’ll read through around 100 pages of background information—stories about Joseph’s relationship with Yasmina, his tense childhood, his older brother’s death. At the time, they seem like they must have some significance, some reason for being there, some critical connection to what’s to come. But, really, they’re just stories—just more background information on a character who’s not exactly likeable, though he’s not altogether unlikeable, either.

In a way, The Executor is like a roller coaster—one with a frightfully high peak. The climb is always slow, suspenseful—just an agonizing click, click, click toward the top. All the while, you can see what’s ahead. You know the drop is coming. You know it’s sure to take your breath away. Still, there’s nothing you can do but sit and wait, as the tension builds in your chest. Then, when you finally get to the summit, the ride reaches breathtaking speeds as it drops to its finish. And the same is true of The Executor. The first 100 pages are rather slow. Then, throughout the next 150 pages or so, the tension builds—so gradually, though, that you’ll hardly notice it at first. Then, in one gripping moment, the bottom drops out—and the last 200 pages or so are a speeding, nerve-wracking blur.

Although it could have done without some of the plodding back story, The Executor is a fascinating literary thriller, carefully crafted and thoughtfully paced. And if you can tolerate the agonizing climb that leads up to its sudden, blurred drop, you’re in for quite a ride.

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