by Paul Cleave
Jerry Grey is a successful crime writer, when, aged forty-nine and about to publish his thirteenth book, he is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In the opening pages of Trust No One Jerry attempts to confess to the murder of one of the characters in a thriller that he wrote many years ago. The poignancy of this first scene is heightened by Jerry’s failure to recognise his own daughter and his incomprehension of why he is now living in a nursing home.
With great skill Cleave takes us inside Jerry’s head as his dementia progresses. From mild but disturbing memory lapses – how could he forget his wife’s name? – through a series of journal entries as the disease advances, we share Jerry’s confusion and his states of anger, bargaining for a reprieve and denial, as well as moments of absolute lucidity. This makes reading Trust No One both challenging and rewarding. What is a real clue to the plot? What is just a misleading diversion thrown in as a symptom of Jerry’s illness?
Trust No One is far from being an easy read because just like Jerry, the dementia patient, we are forced to keep a grip and focus, focus, focus (as Jerry says) on what is happening and to readjust our view as the plot unfolds. I had to constantly remind myself that if this is what the degeneration of a mind suffering from Alzheimer’s is like, then as well as a complex plot, Trust No One is also a valuable insight into the disease. At times it may seem that Cleave has used Jerry’s Alzheimer’s as an excuse for some very peculiar behaviour, but any reader who has ever had contact with a dementia patient will know that Cleave’s portrayal of Jerry is very realistic.
Even as the body count mounts, and there are hints that Jerry really must be a killer, his sorrowful journal entries somehow kept me liking him and sharing his hope for a reprieve. At this point, my only disappointment with Trust No One is that the police are portrayed as apparently unaware that there is a serial killer in action. Trust No One is set in Christchurch but the city’s identity is so understated that it could be anywhere at all.
The story picks up pace in the latter half of the book and as it hurtles towards the end, suspense and horror are offset brilliantly with moments of wit and comedy. Provided the reader is willing to take up Cleave’s clever challenge to live Jerry’s Alzheimer’s, the twists and turns in the plot make Trust No One a thriller.
Author: Paul Cleave
Publisher: Upstart Press