Meeting Evil tells an adrenaline-pumped, genuinely frightening tale of malevolence that swerves swiftly and irrevocably to a catastrophic climax.
John Felton meets evil late one Monday morning when the doorbell rings. Standing on the front porch is a stranger. He wears expensive running shoes and a baseball cap and calls himself Richie. He tells John his car has stalled and asks for help. An altercation at the gas station leads to a shocking crime as violence begets violence. At the end of this harrowing day, John returns home to find Richie ensconced in his living room, chatting up his wife. The evil has somehow seeped into his life. Thus begins the transformation of an unremarkable husband and father of two into a desperate man willing to go to any length to protect his family from the darkness that threatens them.
This is an extraordinary masterpiece and a chilling portrait of mounting menace played out against an everyday world of domestic routine, personified in a protagonist of basic decency grappling with both the immediate and existential meaning of true evil.
“A brilliant and troubling book…. Thomas Berger is the laureate of the ludicrous tragedy.” (Chicago Tribune)
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Not what I'd hoped
The introduction by Jonathan Lethem, whom I think of as one of the best living writers we have, sold me on the book, and it's arguably the most interesting part of what's here. Lethem talks about how gifted Berger is, and I tried to use those insights to keep my interest in the novel. Still, I listened throughout, waiting for some of the surprise in plot or narrative form that I love in Lethem, and I found what felt a predictable and sometimes heavy-handed work.
Maybe, but it would have to be something earlier from the Little Big Man era.
It's going to be, or so I thought.
- Joe Kraus