Meet Edward Rollins, scion of one of Boston's more notable families. A diligent but uninspired employee at one of the city's finest investment houses, he is a man of means -- and of secrets. Each night, armed with a hand-held tape recorder, he randomly picks a car and follows it to a destination, cataloging the habits and peculiarities of its driver. A harmless obsession.
But one night changes everything. Trailing a car to a remote suburb, Rollins follows it to a house that, he eerily realizes, was once frequented by his murdered cousin. Drawn into a mystery to which he unwittingly holds the key, he must unlock the secrets of his past to find the truth -- a search that could free him from his own dark house of despair.
A harrowing, tension-riddled literary thriller that echoes the storytelling power of Frederick Busch and Ian McEwan, The Dark House heralds the arrival of a major talent.
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Edward Rollins, a blue-blooded, moderately successful, diligent employee of a small Boston investment firm, is a voyeur's voyeur. He spends his nights drifting through Boston's suburbs, playing a surreal game of cat-and-mouse. He picks cars at random and follows them, all for a few words muttered into an ever-present recorder, a few moments outside the car's final destination, a brief glimpse into a life. "With his night work he was a vacancy, a being without substance or history, drifting through other people's lives. He was nothing to the people he watched. He didn't have to worry about what they might think of him, because they would never think anything of him." But the pathologically repressed Rollins's greatest fear is that he will somehow lose his uninvolved perspective. What would happen if he left "a bit of himself in that car, that house, that life? Instead of him owning it, it might own him. He might become part of the scene he'd meant only to witness." He's about to discover the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: if you watch, you affect--and are affected.
A chance pursuit draws him into his own past. His prey takes him to a house once owned by his cousin, Cornelia Blanchard. Rollins idolized Cornelia as a child, and her disappearance 10 years ago nearly destroyed him. Caught in a web of seeming coincidence, Rollins enlists the aid of a colleague Marj (best described as neurotically plucky) to uncover the truth about his cousin's disappearance and about the long-held secrets of his particularly dysfunctional family.
Readers may become impatient with Rollins's endlessly self-absorbed fretting (his soliloquies on solitude are tedious at best), and with author John Sedgwick's careless tendency to leave loose ends dangling. But the tantalizing glimpses into Rollins's past, and his desperate efforts to reconcile that past with an unnerving present, offer enough to keep the pages turning. As a first effort, The Dark House does its job in a workmanlike fashion: its faults aren't glaring, and readers should look forward to Sedgwick's next novel. --Kelly FlynnAbout the Author:
John Sedgwick is the author of the novels The Dark House and The Education of Mrs. Bemis, and contributes regularly to Newsweek, GQ, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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