The Captive Condition
Pantheon, July 2015
From a thrilling new voice in fiction comes a chilling and deliciously dark novel about an idyllic Midwestern college town that turns out to be a panorama of depravity and a nexus of horror.
For years Normandy Falls has been haunted by its strange history and the aggrieved spirits said to roam its graveyards. Despite warnings, Edmund Campion is determined to go there and pursue an advanced degree in literature. At first things proceed wonderfully, but Edmund soon learns he isn’t immune to the impersonal trappings of fate: his girlfriend Morgan Fey smashes his heart, his advisor Professor Martin Kingsley crushes him with frivolous assignments, and his dead end job begins to take a toll on his physical and mental health.
One night he stumbles upon the body of Emily Ryan, a proud and unapologetic “townie,” drowned in her family pool. Was it suicide, Edmund wonders, or murder? In the days following the tragedy, Emily’s husband Charlie, crippled by self-loathing and ultimately frozen with fear, attempts to flee his disastrous life and sends their twin daughters to stay with the Kingsleys. Possessed with an unnamed, preternatural power, the twins know the professor seduced their mother and may have had a hand in her death. With their piercing stares, the girls fill Martin with the remorse and dread he so desperately tries to hide from his wife.
Elsewhere, a low-level criminal named The Gonk takes over a remote cottage, complete with a burial ground and moonshine still, and devises plans for both; Xavier D’Avignon, the eccentric chef of a failing French restaurant, supplies customers with a hallucinogenic cocktail he makes in his kitchen; and Colette Collins, an elderly local artist of the surreal and psychedelic, attends a New Year’s Eve retrospective that is destined to set the whole town on fire.
Delving into the deepest recesses of the human capacity for evil, Kevin P. Keating’s masterful novel will hold readers captive from first to last.