cover image The Case of Thomas N.

The Case of Thomas N.

John David Morley. Atlantic Monthly Press, $0 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-152-2

Thomas N.'s case begins when he is found by a river in a city and, failing to satisfactorily answer a policeman's questions, is taken into custody. All he knows is that his first name is Thomas (the initial he's given stands for ""name''). Judged to be about 16 years old, he seems, according to psychiatric observation, not to have lost his memory but to have been raised in complete isolation. While his speech and vocabulary are adequate, he does not use the pronoun I, nor does he have any vocabulary for self-reference. Sent first to an institution, he soon takes a menial job and moves to a boarding house. One day he meets a girl on a bus and goes to her house with a group of her friends where he drinks, takes some kind of drug and passes out. The next morning, he awakes to find the girl's head on a chair, her mutilated body in the next room and himself covered with blood. As it develops, the case against Thomas N. raises considerations about the nature of causality (posited against quantum theory), of guilt and innocence, of the limits of intellectual inquiry. With a style reminiscent of Simenon, a Kafkaesque situation and Dickensian characters, Morley has nevertheless written an intriquingly original work. Following his well-received Pictures from the Water Trade, this novel is a disturbing and affecting story. (August 21)