There’s a literary technique known as the “unreliable narrator.” Often the unreliable narrator is only revealed at the end, when the reader suddenly realizes he’s been lied to, and all sorts of mysteries suddenly become clear – “This character has been messing with us.”
More difficult is the consciously unreliable narrator – a narrator who knows he’s often mistaken or deluded. English author Keith Houghton attempts this difficult transaction – mostly successfully – in an American setting in his novel, Before You Leap.
The book opens with a flash-forward – we see our hero in a high-speed chase with the police, finally cornered at the top of a high bridge, yelling at the old friend who’s led him into this predicament.
Then we go back to the start. Greg Cole is a psychotherapist – a “talk therapist” – working in Bonita Springs, Florida. Like so many psychotherapists – at least in fiction – he has a full load of baggage of his own. Long ago in Michigan, his twin sister was murdered, and he fled to Florida to get away from the memories. He’s dating a woman police detective, separated from her husband, and contemplating taking the relationship to the next level, something that scares him.
Then word comes that the man convicted of his sister’s murder has been exonerated and released. Greg is certain of the man’s guilt – he himself was the star prosecution witness. If he was wrong, he did him a great injustice.
And then his oldest friend shows up unannounced – a man he hasn’t seen for 18 years. The friend tells him he’s in danger, but Greg doesn’t believe him. But then there’s a murder, and Greg becomes a suspect. He starts wondering about his old friend – but he also worries about what he himself may have done – he does have these blackouts from time to time…
Surprise twists are frequent here, and I figured out one of the most important fairly early. On the other hand, another twist I thought I figured out turned out to be no twist at all (that was clearly intentional). The plotting was fairly good.
My main problem with Before You Leap was that I didn’t always sympathize with the hero/narrator. Greg got on my nerves from time to time. I found the whole thing a little frenetic for my taste.
But your mileage may vary. Cautions for what you’d expect.