Books like this live or die by the voice of the storyteller, however, and Thomas is unfortunately a total bore. He plods through his timeline — it hardly feels like a story — in bland prose that, despite being peppered with some light analysis of redemption and absolution, leaves this book a charisma-free zone. Apart from, that is, his batty, sexed-up, child-women sisters who seem to be occupying a much more interesting novel.
No one is likely to call A Good Man problematic, no matter how unpleasant the events it describes. What Katz gains in political clarity, though, she loses in artistry. The novel is deeply atmospheric and morbidly compelling, with a near-total commitment to character that suggests a powerful talent. But fiction needs problems and ambiguity and – when writing about unsettling things – a willingness to lead the reader into moral peril. The most enduring monsters are the ones we have to acknowledge as partly ourselves.
Still, the story slickly slides down its twisting descent. Katz has taken us inside the mind of the sort of man you hear about on the news and wonder about, concocting a brew of professional and personal failures, shame, childhood trauma, and overinvestment in old-fashioned, rigid gender roles. But it’s perhaps still not quite heady enough to make the shift from a bad few weeks to all-out tragedy entirely convincing. I’m sure many readers will find A Good Man sordidly gripping, but I didn’t feel too keen to spend the time with this distinctly nasty man.