You won't forget The Circumstantial Man. You won't forget Pete Larkey and the way he views the world. You also won't forget how an innocent
day ends up going dreadfully wrong. One little decision sets everything else in motion and it's hard not to think, while you're reading this story,
whether it could happen to you.
Pete Larkey thinks his car won't start but on his walk back from town sees it moving along the road, right toward him, and somebody is behind the wheel. Somebody Pete does not know. When Pete's car gets involved in a hit and run, we are off to the races with a police investigation and a sinister encounter with a con man named Benny.
As anyone who is familiar with Gary Reilly's other works, the writing is exquisite. "The white varnish of lunar light." "The sin of innocence, the one sin the gods will not ignore." "We all collect keys that lose their purpose. The sorting and disposal of useless keys is a minor chore that grinds Americans down." "I paused to let my eyes again adjust to the darkness, seeing the colored lights emerging like rare, luminous, aquatic creatures."
Pete Larkey is a hard thinker--in fact, he analyzes everything. But he has lots of experiences to draw on, including his time in the Army, and he's clearly a reader because there are references to both Beowulf and Bleak House and other books and writers, too.
I have rarely read a book that is so taut and suspenseful and yet incorporates so many interesting insights into the human condition.
All he wanted to do that day was drive into town to look for a job. But when Pete Larkey turns the ignition key, his car won’t start. He decides to walk to town. He’ll have a morning beer at the Lemon Tree Lounge and buy a new battery for his car. He refuses to feel victimized. At least, he tries. But inside the bar is “the last man on earth” that Pete Larkey wants to see. A guy named Morton will ask a few questions that will change the course of Pete Larkey’s life in a deep, dark way. There’s a stolen car, a hit-and-run accident, mistaken identity, a body in his bathroom and a deadly encounter with a condescending con man named Benny. Pete Larkey knows he’s not a perfect fit for the squeaky-clean town of Crestmoor. “Everything in Crestmoor is clean and tidy,” he thinks, “except the inner lives of people like me.” This innocent trip to fix his car will prove that point beyond a shadow of a doubt.