Clevenger has produced an utterly persuasive and compelling novel, combining the zest and enthusiasm of a new voice with the craft and the guile of a veteran.
Following a near fatal overdose of painkillers, Daniel Fletcher is resuscitated in a Los Angeles emergency room and detained for psychiatric evaluation. Through a series of questions and tests, the psychiatrist must ascertain whether the patient intended to kill himself or whether he can walk free. What the psychiatrist doesn’t know is that Daniel Fletcher is actually John “Johnny” Dolan Vincent, a brilliant young forger who continually changes his identity to save himself from a lifetime of incarceration. Johnny has done such assessments before—many, many times. As he creates an elaborate bluff for the evaluator, Johnny reveals the true story of his traumatic past: a broken family, descent into the sinister world of forgers and criminals, and his one chance of salvation in the beautiful and elusive Molly. But time is running out; as his underworld clients lose patience and the psychiatrist’s net closes around him, Johnny has to negotiate the escape act of his life.
Evoking the boulevards and strip bars of 1980s Los Angeles with cinematic intensity, The Contortionist’s Handbook is a darkly hypnotic and stunningly original debut.