Following a violent outburst at an awards ceremony, Vidor Kiraly, a prize-winning neuroscientist and Cambridge don, is sent to an isolated psychiatric clinic in the Swiss Alps. When the clinic’s director, Anton Gessen, tries in vain to unearth the missing pieces of Vidor’s life, he suspects his reluctant patient is not who he appears to be. After one of the patients at the clinic goes missing, Gessen has reason to doubt Vidor’s self-proclaimed innocence. But what is he hiding, and who might be next?
The Double was an extremely apt title for Ann Gosslin’s novel as she explored what/who we are, questioned if somewhere out there or within us another person lurked just below the surface.
In particular she honed in on eminent scientist, and award winner Vidor, a man clearly troubled, yet with no self awareness of his attack on an audience member and his subsequent incarceration in a high end psychiatric retreat in the mountains of Switzerland.
Gessen was the man deemed good enough to unlock Vidor’s brain and psyche and Gosslin did a pretty good job at taking us along on the journey. She delved into the dark recesses of Vidor’s mind, of his ability to block what he wanted to forget, to make us question his actions, and presumed lack of guilt. He appeared cold, remote, emotionless, a deep dark character who you didn’t know wether you wanted to like or not.
And what of his psychiatrist, Gessen? I have to say I quite liked Gessen as Gosslin made us feel his frustration as he encountered Vidor’s stubborn inability to look beyond his own perceptions. His determination to discover who this man was was utterly fascinating as he travelled backwards and forwards to the streets of Paris slowly unlocking Vidor’s mysterious past.
The past seemed at odds with his present but Gosslin didn’t make us feel sorry or pity him, instead a ruthless almost desperate individual who wanted to succeed emerged, a man who I would not have wanted to get on the wrong side of.
The other characters at the treatment centre circled around Vidor, all with their own mysterious conditions, their interactions used skillfully by Gosslin to unlock little snippets of Vidor’s character. You could sense a simmering tension as the facts became more apparent, as Vidor himself sensed truths that threatened his very being. It was interesting to read how Gosslin steered the novel, what the actions of Vidor would be and ultmateley the outcome.
When it came the narrative sped up as it took on the more traditional feel of a crime/psychological thriller, as Vidor’s story tumbled out, reactions and actions brilliantly told.
If your looking for a pacey story The Double was not it, instead it was slow, and meandering as Gosslin built layer upon layer of intrigue and discovery. I felt as if she had stepped back in time, to a Victorian era of stern men in stiff suits, of austere buildings, emotions kept closely in check, and mistrust in men of science rather than more modern day 2008.
I felt The Double was deep, dark, incisive and compelling from start to finish.
I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Double to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Ann Gosslin was born and raised in New England in the US, and moved overseas after leaving University. Having held several full-time roles in the pharmaceutical industry, with stints as a teacher and translator in Europe, Asia, and Africa, she currently works as a freelancer and lives in Switzerland.
Ann’s debut novel The Shadow Bird was published in July 2020. The Double is Ann’s second novel.