I think I thought I knew what this book was all about from its reputation and what cultural products reference it at times. It’s an evil twin novel, and I thought the Simpsons episode with Hugo is at work here. It’s not quite.
Anyway, this is a novel form 1970, a thriller, written by a sometimes actor who would go on to have some various publishing successes. This was apparently a giant bestseller, but has probably faded from consciousness in a lot of ways. It’s come back a little because it was picked up by NYRB Classics, and that’s probably why I was able to get the audiobook.
The book starts us off in the 1960s in a mansion/estate in Connecticut as a kind of frame, but sends us back quickly 30 years earlier where we meet Holland and Niles Perry, twins and tweens, who are reeling from the recent death of their father. This is a book drenched with death and the 30s already being a depressing decade adds to that atmosphere. We know that Holland is disturbed, and we are told of a recent event where he hanged a farm cat in the barn. We also find out that Niles is protective and scared by his brother, both wanting him to be safe and protected, but also terrified by what it seems he is capable of. Other dark events start happening and we suspect Holland for all of them, but the book is twisty so you can imagine.
It’s a weird book and it more atmospheric than scary.