Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb is the story of Rob Castor, a writer and minor cult celebrity who gained fame with his first volume of stories but had not been able to follow up that initial promise with a second success. Suffering under the weight of expectation, he grows blocked and despondent. His girlfriend Kate, also a writer, finds success, and when her star begins to rise he has a breakdown. She leaves him for an older man in the publishing industry, sending Rob spiraling into despair.
This book is about the aftermath of the murder/suicide of Rob and Kate in Manhattan. It centers around Nick Framingham, who grew up with Rob but had seen him only sporadically in their adulthood. Nick’s 10 year marriage to college sweetheart Lucy begins to disintegrate in the wake of the killings and the media circus that ensues in their upstate NY hometown. Nick, drawn in grief to Rob’s sister (the “hot mess” Belinda), starts obsessively going over the details of Rob’s final days in addition to looking back over his childhood, when Rob, Nick, and Belinda were inseparable and lived across the street from each other. Lucy is left to wonder why Nick can’t get past it and move on.
There are numerous plot twists and turns (good ones that I didn’t see coming) and there is suspense, but I would not go so far as to call Now You See Him a thriller. It’s a psychological study of the inner life and failings of an ordinary guy in a dead end job and an unsatisfying, lonely marriage, a man who is questioning where he has been and where he is going- kind of an early mid-life crisis. The narrator, Nick, is not always the nicest person; he walks the ‘dark side’ a bit and makes some poor choices, but I understood him and felt sorry for him. It’s an examination of lifelong friendships, family secrets, and missed opportunities. I found the author’s assessment of the prism of feelings in different relationships to be authentic and spot on.
The book was a bit frustrating because in many ways, it could have been so much better. The author started to set certain things in motion but then abandoned those ideas. It was as if he wanted to write a darker book but then changed his mind. Gottlieb is a talented writer and the book was extremely well written, but I wished it had been more of a thriller (it totally could have been!) That said, I would still recommend it. It was an interesting page-turner; an easy read that I gobbled up in 2 or 3 sittings.