THIS NEAR horror story of a novel contains a positive message which surely applies to most of us: however messed up your relationships are, or have been, even the most embarrassing catastrophe in the history of your love life was a paragon of balance and sanity compared to an average day in the life of most of the characters in this darkest of tales.
The Night Game by Frank Golden (Salmon Publishing ) is set in a foggy Manhattan at the end of winter. Though set in contemporary times, the atmosphere is such that if Humphrey Bogart rose from the grave he could walk straight into a film version of this.
The central character, Mary, has issues of the serious variety, and lives alone in the large Manhattan brownstone house that was her childhood home. She is one of those people whose life has been reduced to its ghosts. When she begins receiving threatening phone calls, she suspects her ex-husband David, with whom she is still obsessed. The police investigate and focus on a dating website Mary has accessed. Her friend, Sheila, moves into the Manhattan brownstone with her, as a temporary measure, until the situation clears, which of course it does not.
Sheila’s move turns out very permanent. She is involved in a heavily sado-masochistic relationship with a man who sometimes calls himself Maurice. The issue of her consent to some of the beatings is, to put it mildly, rather blurred - and Maurice is clearly the sort of icy psychopath often found in the upper reaches of politics, or in the boardrooms of companies attracted to Ireland by our 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate: “Sheila’s bloodied and battered body lies on the sofa. Maurice comes in from the hallway holding a fresh roll of duct tape.”
Sheila dies and, to convolute an already convoluted story a little more, Mary’s ex-husband David is arrested for Sheila’s murder, while Mary suspects Sheila of having had an affair with David. These people are a mess. More befalls the characters and the story takes one final suitably melodramatic turn which I will leave for you to discover.
The book’s one flaw is that Golden sometimes writes as if he has just swallowed a dictionary, or at least that part of the dictionary, with only the big words in it. That said, The Night Game would make an excellently unseasonal present for those who hate Christmas.