cover image A Lonely Man

A Lonely Man

Chris Power. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-29844-9

In this beguiling literary thriller about the ethics of storytelling, Power (Mothers) examines the plundering tendencies of oligarchs and writers alike. Robert Prowe, an English novelist living in Berlin, strikes up a friendship with fellow writer Patrick Unsworth, who shares an outlandish tale: having been hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of dissident Russian oligarch Sergei Vanyashin and entrusted with compromising information about Putin’s regime, he is now being tracked by Russian agents. Moreover, Vanyashin and various figures in his circle have died under suspicious circumstances. Robert can’t decide if his new acquaintance is lying or “playing out some fantasy,” but decides to use Patrick’s story, without his permission, as the basis for a new novel. Robert’s “twenty-four fucking carat” material comes with a cost, as ominous signs emerge that he and his family could be in danger. For a novel filled with so much trickery, there are some slack sections, for example, when Robert prepares his family’s summer house in Sweden or returns to London for a funeral. Furthermore, the bond between the two men isn’t quite magnetic enough for the reader to feel the sting of the eventual vampiric betrayal. By and large, though, Power maintains an elegant sense of intrigue around the lengths writers will go for a good story. (May)