Pembroke College Oxford is the educational cauldron for two brilliant but damaged egos whose diverse backgrounds trigger an attraction of opposites in which a mutual need to define their own destinies leads to a catastrophic denouement.
Zach is the American Svengali whose Ivy League background is at odds with Owen’s provincial upbringing but their coming together stimulates a dangerous affinity as they become immersed in the cloistered bubble of university life.
Zach’s ability to control his current and future life becomes all consuming as he embarks on a self-destructive journey which appears to terminate at a philosophical void into which the final decision, on life or death, becomes a choice for the individual rather than nature.
As a less profound counter balance student debauchery is still willingly embraced yet the potential ink on the tabloid headlines is erased by an intellectual rationale that ensures organised chaos is orchestrated with the precision of a chess grandmaster. Oxford is at times a dark backdrop to lives spiralling out of control but Ryan Ruby still manages to paint a picture of Oxford that is both historic and somehow out of step with the millennial generation.
Tori and Claire are the bright young things trying to soften the key protagonists but it is Vera, Zach’s seemingly forgotten sister, who provides the intrigue and tension. Initially just a muted and distant voice her influence gradually seeps into every sentence as academia is supplanted by the macabre.
Hans Abendroth is the author of Zach’s grand obsession but his analytical musings on the path from birth to darkness are dry and difficult to interpret yet the skill of the story is the understated placement of the clues that leads the reader in a circuitous path to the core of a terminally damaged mind.
- Rich Reviews Rating: