cover image The Fiction Writer

The Fiction Writer

Jillian Cantor. Park Row, $17.99 trade paper (292p) ISBN 978-0-7783-3418-7

This muddled suspense outing from Cantor (Half Life) opens strong before becoming mired in its metatextual references to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Struggling novelist Olivia Fitzgerald is hired to ghostwrite a novel for “reclusive mega-billionaire” Henry Asherwood, whose wife died in a tragic (and suspicious) accident a year earlier. Asherwood hires Olivia based on her most recent novel, Becky, a rework of Rebecca, telling her that du Maurier “stole his grandmother’s story” and that he wants Olivia to write a novel inspired by a more direct and honest account of the late woman’s life. The more she works on the project, the stranger Asherwood begins to act, stoking Olivia’s suspicions about the fate of his late wife and, eventually, her own safety. Thus, Olivia “step[s] inside my own personal retelling of Rebecca” while writing about the original book’s development. Though Cantor is a strong stylist, her ultra-meta conceit quickly becomes too complicated, stalling narrative momentum with extended passages from Olivia’s in-progress novel and sacrificing suspense for cleverness one too many times. This ambitious gothic experiment misses the mark. Agent: Jessica Regel, Helm Literary. (Nov.)