Merrimon Book Reviews

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
19th-century German philosopher and classical philologist known for His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth.  Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism.  His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the will to power.

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Executor
The Executor by Jesse Kellerman
by Jesse Kellerman

Dynamic philosophical and psychological thriller
Harvard philosophy graduate student Joseph Geist is so close to finishing his dissertation, but when his girlfriend throws him out, the absence of her financial support threatens his future.  The change in dissertation director presents one more hurdle to slow his progress.  Without the department's support, his prospects diminish.  Looking for a job outside of academia becomes a necessity.  When Joseph spots an advertisement in the school newspaper for a conversationalist, he cannot resist.  The job seems an answer to his dilemma.  Indeed, Joseph forms an increasingly close relationship with Alma.  She understands and appreciates him in ways others don't.  She values those things he does.  Above all, she believes in him and wants to assist his pursuit of philosophy.  Can this happy environment last?  Will the detached man of ideas, a believer in free will, now finally be able to follow his dreams now that he is not chained down by the mundane world or will the newly found freedom unmask something much more nefarious?

Jesse Kellerman's THE EXECUTOR is dynamic thriller that pays homage to literary classics while also situating classic philosophical questions in a new setting --- not just the setting of the character but also the thriller genre itself.  Joseph Geist is a man who at first elicits a certain amount of sympathy, especially for readers familiar with the disjuncture between the ideals and practical realities of academia.  One almost believes in his ascetic noble ideals and yet Jesse Kellerman builds the character with a few unlikeable characteristics from the very beginning to keep a reader on edge questioning the character and reliability of the narrator.  As events unfold, one wants him to succeed in part, and yet, in seeing the connection with the other characters, one feels the building momentum of disaster as one event leads to another and Joseph's thoughts change towards the characters he sees.  The genius of THE EXECUTOR shines not so much in exciting twists at the end, which a reader of classic literature will expect beforehand, but more in how the author builds the events that lead to that ending.  Jesse Kellerman creates an eerie effect as the reader watches the events through Joseph's eyes and inner thoughts.  The philosophical question of free will becomes more than idle detached speculation as the characters move from detached individuals to characters in close proximity with conflicting goals that put pressure on one another.  One hopes against all hope for free will and the action of one individual to stop the impending doom, but with each step, the characters seem to head straight to the awaiting crisis.  Perhaps even more eerie is how the reader him or herself feels compelled by the unfolding drama even while suspecting at least part of the upcoming events. 
THE EXECUTOR is a gripping thriller that expertly manipulates the reader's expectations and sympathies in the process of casting doubt on both.  Beyond the story itself, THE EXECUTOR poses intriguing questions about free will within the context of the reader and the writer's ability to influence the reader within the fictional world he creates.

Publisher: Putnam  (April 1, 2010)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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