Nerve Damage, by Peter Abrahams, Read by Alan Nebelthau, Recorded Books, LLC, 2007
A year or so ago, I was turned on to a novel entitled Oblivion by Peter Abrahams. In that book, renowned detective Nick Petrov suffers from a head trauma leading to amnesia. We follow him as he uncovers the mystery surrounding his own recent activities and those of the people he knows and loves. The uncertainty of everything around Petrov, much like the detective in the brilliant film Memento, are what makes the novel so interesting. The actual mystery itself I rather consider secondary to Petrov’s search for the truth about himself.
In a similar vein, Abrahams’ most recent novel, Nerve Damage, features celebrated sculptor Roy Valois who very early on in the book gets back very bad biopsy results. Very specific lung cancer from asbestos exposure when he was just a kid, almost certainly inoperable and untreatable. Prompted by a friend’s stray comment and his own insatiable curiosity and with the help of a computer hacker friend,
Abrahams manages to balance out this mystery with actual day-to-day concerns of
There is also
Abrahams’ tries gamely to work up some sympathy for
Part of this search takes him into dizzying chases with what might be members of the CIA or a separate clandestine intelligence/special ops team, financed by shadowy millionaire businessmen.
While the big climax hinges on some rather implausible occurrences and some pretty severe coincidences, Abrahams is enough of a skilled plotter to move things along with precipitous speed. The book’s final pages feel more written as if for a cinematic treatment and have the same cavalier fantastical quality. While Nerve Damage is a fun read, it doesn’t necessarily go the whole distance in securing Abrahams’ rep as an inventive literary mystery writer. While he may be carving out his own peculiar DOA-style niche of mysteries, we will need a little more life in the next book to keep on picking them up.
Recorded Books managed to time this one well, almost every disc ending with a cliff-hanger style impetus to move on to the next one. Alan Nebelthau reads beautifully, not much for voices save accents where he delivers slightly British inflected Indian English, New Englander, and Texan with aplomb.