[Review] The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger

Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 19th November, 2014

[Review] The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig ClevengerThe Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger
Published by MacAdam/Cage Publishing on September 15, 2003
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 199
Source: Purchase
John Vincent Dolan is a talented young forger with a proclivity for mathematics and drug addiction. In the face of his impending institutionalization, he continually reinvents himself to escape the legal and mental health authorities and to save himself from a life of incarceration. But running turns out to be costly. Vincent's clients in the L.A. underworld lose patience, the hospital evaluator may not be fooled by his story, and the only person in as much danger as himself is the woman who knows his real name.

I read this book for the book club that I attend with my friends and I. My friend picked the book for this month, and it was about as far from YA and fantasy as you can get. You know, if you don’t count the late 1980’s as a world far away.

The main character, if still alive, would actually be somewhere around my Dad’s age. He deals with his time and his issues within his time. Everything seems so backwards, without the internet, but the premise was still pretty interesting.

Our main character crafts identities for himself, new identities like clockwork every six months. Despite having eleven fingers and remaining in the same city, no one has caught on yet. Well, except for some mobsters, who were using his unique skills at recreating documents to extend their own enterprise.

Yet, our main character has a bigger problem than getting left somewhere for dead. Turns out, he gets awful headaches and tries to take painkillers like candy. And so, he ends up in the hospital and plays the system in order to get out without any sort of extra evaluation. Once out of the hospital, he moves into his new name and his new identity. Of course this keeps the law from catching up with him, but it also keeps him from actually getting a proper diagnosis for his crazy headaches.

Unfortunately, I didn’t super connect to the main character. Maybe if he did something else, maybe if the entire book wasn’t told in flashbacks while he was tricking the current evaluator. Maybe if he had some shred of remorse or actually cared about anything more than his next high. Even his romance seemed disjointed. Were we supposed to care that the woman whom he loved learned his tools of the trade and left him for a new identity? Honestly, her story was more interesting.

It was a short, gritty read and it was entertaining enough. It just didn’t travel deep enough for me nor give me the satisfaction of characters I actually enjoyed or let the character we had grow and change.


Written by Fry


Probably in a dungeon somewhere. Game Master for the D’n’D actual play podcast Roll For Wenches .

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