cover image A Flaw in the Design

A Flaw in the Design

Nathan Oates. Random House, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-44670-6

In this gripping psychological thriller from Oates (The Empty House), 17-year-old Matthew’s wealthy Manhattanite parents have died in a suspicious car accident, and the newly orphaned high school senior goes to live with his uncle Gil and Gil’s family in Vermont. Gil is uneasy about this arrangement: as a boy, Matthew stood by as Gil’s daughter nearly drowned in a pool; Matthew cursed viciously at his French nanny; and even his mother admitted Matthew had difficulties. However, Gil, a creative writing professor, has stalled in his career, is badly in debt, and has reasons to be jealous of this handsome, often charming young man with a multimillion-dollar trust fund. So the question that drives the narrative is whether Gil projects his own hostility onto Matthew, or whether Matthew is a sociopath who has killed his parents for the inheritance. Meanwhile, Matthew writes disturbing stories about his family for Gil’s class, setting Matthew and Gil on a collision course. This immersive page-turner cleverly juxtaposes the writing of short fiction with the production of stories in people’s minds. Oates is definitely a writer to watch. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Mar.)