The Blade This Time opens with our Narrator waking in the tunnels beneath New York's subways. After escaping back to the surface, he wanders the streets until he comes across a wig shop with notice of an apartment for rent. The apartment was previously rented by a painter, Max Leider, who has fled the scene and left behind his clothes and paintings of the tenement across the street. The Narrator quickly becomes fascinated with these paintings, and the woman, garbed in funeral clothes, across the way.
I enjoyed what Jon Bassoff did in his previous books, The Incurables and Factory Town, the latter especially with its incongruous puzzle-box nature of storytelling. Unfortunately, I just didn't find myself all that interested in his latest effort.
The Blade This Time is too straightforward and linear, especially in comparison to the surreal, dreamscape narrative of Factory Town, and it was disappointing to have Bassoff spill all his secrets so early in the narrative. The book opens with a definition of a particular psychological disorder, which sets up the narrative nicely, but there's not many shocks or surprises to follow. This is a slow, psychological work of dark fiction, but it never really picks up or leads to any particular revelations, or at least none that aren't clearly, and disappointingly, telegraphed within the book's first few chapters.
Bassoff does a particularly fine job of writing those darker psychological compulsions that plague his characters, though. The Narrator's descent into madness is well-drawn, and there's a few terrific parallels drawn between him and the various characters he crosses paths with. But, for me, it's a lesser work in Bassoff's growing body of novels, and I kept wishing the plot would get more wrinkly and complicated than it does.
[Note: As a member of the DarkFuse Reader's Group, I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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