FICTION

Unreliable

Doubleday. Apr. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780385542050. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542067. F
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Late on the evening of July 1, professor Edwin Stith sets out from Ithaca, NY, in his aging Honda, bound for Richmond to attend his mother's wedding. Edwin has hit a personal low: the author of two unpublishable novels, he is divorced, impotent, and embroiled in an affair with an undergraduate that promises to end his career. Also, he may have just murdered his ex-wife. Or a TGI Fridays waitress. Or his ex-wife's new lover. It is possible Eddie is cutting a swath down the Eastern Seaboard—but, then again, maybe not. In a first-person narrative that is at times coy, discursive, pompous, and frenetic, Eddie drags readers through two jam-packed days in the aftermath of a crime that has driven him over the edge. Along the way he encounters an eccentric cast, including his neurotic mother and her much younger fiancé, a Vietnam War memorabilia dealer, two troubled soon-to-be step-siblings, a high school love, an assortment of unsavory businessmen, and, of course, his alluring student Lola.
VERDICT Irby (7,000 Clams) plays with the conventions of the unreliable narrator trope to create an inverted murder mystery in which the question isn't whodunit but what is the nature of the crime itself. In the process, he delivers a story that is comic, mystifying, and ominous, but never, not for one second, boring.

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