Reviewed by Jennifer R.

Jesse Kellerman’s The Executor is a dedication to philosophy and the thought of free will. This theme runs rampant throughout this psychological thriller that will draw the reader in, inevitably rendering him tense and conceivably disturbed.

Harvard grad student, Joseph Geist, finds himself all of a sudden with nothing. He loses direction, funding, and his advisor’s interest in his thesis. Joseph’s girlfriend, Yasmina, has kicked him out of the home they shared, and he has no financial means to support himself. Out of desperation, Joseph answers an ad for a conversationalist.

Joseph is immediately captivated by Alma, with whom he converses. Joseph’s admiration for Alma turns into a strange and perplexing love, bordering obsession. So, naturally, Joseph reacts protectively when Alma’s greedy nephew begins to come around for what Joseph believes is only financial purposes. What follows are a course of events Joseph quickly loses control of, yet which undeniably affect everything in his life.

In The Executor, Kellerman has displayed his mastery over the art of story telling and use of language. The manner in which he chose and placed his words made the physical act of reading savory. The pace of the story was fitting with the plot. The majority of the novel was written in first person, but one section transitions to the rarely used second person tense. The author’s use of this technique in that section helped increase the anxiety of the character, which in turn, intensified the experience for the reader.

Psychological thrillers have the tendency to scare me as the reader, but not in the fun kind of scare. Rather, they leave me uneasy and unsure. Kellerman’s latest novel is well done and definitely fits the genre. I, however, wasn’t fond of it beyond the beauty of the way it was written. I didn’t like Joseph. He irritated me with his ironic lack of ambition and I didn’t feel any empathy toward him. The plot itself was fairly simple and lacked a larger amount of suspense I expected. And the relationship between Alma and Joseph was just weird. It may have been the intention to leave their relationship somewhat ambiguous, but it left me feeling, for lack of a better word, creeped out.

The Executor is likely more for fans of psychological thrillers specifically — those who enjoy having their minds intelligibly twisted and made somewhat uneasy. This book would also be interesting to those who enjoy philosophy. The touch on free will talk isn’t so much that non-philosophians will be utterly bored, but it’s enough that it may spark some debate for those who enjoy it. This book certainly isn’t for everyone, but it was well written and nicely done.

Rating: 3/5

Jenny is a social worker in her late twenties who lives with her husband and Jack Russell Terrier in the central Florida area. In her “free” time she loves reading books of all genres. She also reviews books on her book blog TakeMeAway.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Putnam Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.