THE DESCENT OF MAN by Kevin Desinger

Book Quote:

“I had made a mistake in judgment, and it just kept going, rolling into a larger and larger ball, and I was in the middle of it, tumbling out of control.”

Book Review:

Review by Poornima Apte  (JUN 22, 2011)

The Descent of Man could be used as Exhibit A in how to write a taut plot-driven story. The story catches you from the opening line and just never lets you go. If you’re looking for a fast beach read, look no further.

Jim Sandusky is an everyman holding down a steady job when one day, he looks out the window of his house and sees thieves trying to get away with his car. He tells his wife to stay away from the window and call the police, while he goes down to investigate. Instead of leaving the police to take care of the thieves, in a split second, Jim gets into the thieves’ truck and drives it away. What’s worse, he abandons the truck a short distance away and totally bashes it in.

This one split-second decision will come back to haunt Jim and make his life fraught with tension, if not downright misery. As it turns out the duo that was stealing Jim’s car is a set of violent brothers. And yes, they want to exact revenge on the sicko who bashed their car in.

So Jim is constantly living in fear—wary of who might be waiting for him around the corner. Between the weight of this problem and keeping it secret from his wife Marla, he gradually becomes an insomniac, trawling the streets of his city up to the early morning hours. “When you commit a crime, you replay it again and again,” he thinks, “You think about how you might have done things another way.”

And this is precisely what happens to Jim. Unfortunately for him, Jim can’t even confide in a friendly cop, Sergeant Rainey, who assures Jim he can do a lot to relieve him of his troubles. All Jim has to do is to be honest and recount the fateful night’s events faithfully. Jim doesn’t.

What makes The Descent of Man a good read is that Jim’s actions and every decision seem so very plausible. It’s almost as if this could happen to each one of us. As his life spins out of control, it’s hard not to feel some relief in knowing it’s not you in that situation.

The Descent of Man is not without its faults. For one thing, the dialog is a little cheesy at times. “Think of yourself as a slice of bread, and they’re a can of Drano,” Sergeant Rainey tells Jim about the brothers. “After they come in contact with you, all that’s left is a puff of smoke and little crusty bits.” Additionally, the plot falters at the very end and the cop’s actions seemed a little too neat and implausible—especially given how totally believable the plot is until then.

Overall though, The Descent of Man turns out to be a fairly good read. Through his forays into Jim’s and Marla’s delicate relationship, Desinger shows us he is plenty capable of character-driven writing as well. The couple’s struggles with infertility and the effects it has on each of them, are portrayed heartbreakingly well.

Even if the book is not crackling with scintillating dialog, or at least the wisecracking kind that one would expect from such a book these days, it exudes an honest empathy that makes The Descent of Man an extremely fun and fast read. The best thrillers narrate events that are slightly off course yet ever so believable. Jim Sandusky is the epitome of John Doe and as his life spirals out of control, it’s hard to look away. “Adrenaline turns a guy into an ape sometimes,” Sergeant Rainey says. No new revelation there. The more interesting reveal is just how fine a line exists between civilized and feral behavior. It is this revelation that’s the scariest to digest and what makes The Descent of Man a page-turner.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 2 readers
PUBLISHER: Unbridled Books (May 3, 2011)
REVIEWER: Poornima Apte
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Kevin Desinger
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Long Drive Home by Will Allison


June 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Mystery/Suspense, Thriller/Spy/Caper

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.