The newest novel from Paul Cleave entitled Trust No One released this week. Even though this was his ninth book, I can't say I'd heard of him before digging into this. I guess that gives you an idea of how far my knowledge of recent genre ficton reaches beyond the name King. Regardless, when a review request dropped into my inbox several weeks ago, the familiar title and simplistic cover was enough to pique my interest.
Jerry Grey was a best selling crime novelist. That is, until Alzheimer's Disease took his thoughts away. His mind is a jumble and not only is he forgetting things, but he's also confusing the worlds he created in his books with his own. This isn't helped by the fact that he keeps waking up in strange places not knowing how he got there. Worse, his little trips outside the nursing home seem to coincide with a string of murders.
Man, Alzheimer's Disease sucks. Not that I was ever a fan, but having it presented in such a relatable context was downright frightening. As a writer, I pride myself on being able to create. Using nothing but my mind, I concentrate, move through the clutter and a story takes shape. It's a gift and the thought of that being taken away is harrowing. Writing is one of the few satisfactions I get out of life, and without control of my mind, well... what's left?
Trust No One was a really brisk read, cleverly framed within two threads. The first is in the present, where we learn about Jerry (or Future Jerry as he calls himself) and his predicament at the same rate as our protagonist as his memory is now shot. The second is through the pages of a journal – a madness journal – that Jerry (Past Jerry) started writing a few days after he was diagnosed in order to record his thoughts before they slipped away. This fractured timeline really kept me engaged, as Cleave could drop a breadcrumb in the present day that made me want to read on until the corresponding event appeared in the journal side of the tale. I also found the “if-I-could-only remember-this-one-important-thing” device - present in some of my favourite gialli - to be a source of much enjoyment.
When I discovered that Jerry wrote under a pseudonym named Henry Cutter – one that he would let take over when writing his darkest passages – I feared it may turn into Stephen King's The Dark Half, but thankfully, the story went elsewhere. With this book being a mystery thriller, it had its share of red herrings, but even though the last third came to a perhaps inevitable climax, I was certainly not expecting how it ended.
I think the real strength of this book was the storytelling, and just how tragic the character of Jerry really was. In the first half, we learn of some really ugly events just as he does, and his unfortunate situation just worsens from there. Trust No One was a good read that not only served as a solid mystery, but also shined a light on a cruel disease that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.