Now You See Him, By Eli Gottlieb

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The Independent Culture

Nick Framingham has hero-worshipped his best friend, writer Rob Castor, since they were boys. When the news breaks that Rob has murdered his girlfriend, and Rob is found dead himself a few days later, Nick is hit hard, and the shock-waves jeopardise his already fragile marriage. This story weaves between Rob's last days, Nick's childhood, Nick's affair with Rob's sister, his troubled relationship with his own parents, and the slow, sad break-up of Nick and his wife Lucy (including some excruciating counselling sessions with the hammy and self-important Dr Purefoy).

Eli Gottlieb has a gift for precise and original imagery: one female character is described as "self-contained as a vase"; hearing the word "loving" awakens feeling inside Nick "like a stick banging a radiator". The novel is a witty, pitiless dissection of how relationships follow their own arc of destruction. And as the skeletons march from their cupboards, the full extent of how the past wreaks its effects upon the present is made graphically apparent. Or, as the novel's closing lines ironically put it: "Because what's past is past, right?