Title: The Stages by Thom Satterlee
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 224 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publicist
He trusts everyone, when he shouldn’t trust anyone.
How does a man with Asperger’s Syndrome step out of his office, leave behind the safety of his desk and books, and embrace the world he’s always kept at arm’s length?
All his life, Daniel Peters has hidden behind his reputation as one of the world’s best translators of the iconic philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. When his beloved ex-girlfriend and mentor dies under odd circumstances and a priceless Kierkegaard manuscript goes missing, Daniel turns out to be the last person to have seen her alive. To clear his name, he must leave the safety of his books and venture out into the streets of Copenhagen.
Reminiscent of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime, this mystery will keep readers guessing until the final page.
The Stages by Thom Satterlee is an intriguing mystery starring a very unusual but likable protagonist.
For the past eighteen years, American Daniel Peters has been living and working in Copenhagen as translator of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s works. Socially awkward with a penchant for routine, Daniel was unaware that these traits are, in fact, symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome until rather late in life. His close friend and boss Mette Rasmussen was instrumental in helping him understand his condition and while he still has difficulty reading social cues, he is making an effort to interact more regularly with his co-workers. Mette was very protective of him and in the aftermath of her death, Daniel is trying to put his well-ordered life back on track when he learns he is the lead suspect in her murder. In an effort to clear his name and recover a recently discovered but now missing Kierkegaard manuscript, Daniel steps out of his comfort zone and investigates the clues that he hopes will lead him to her killer.
Daniel is highly intelligent but he is definitely at a disadvantage in social or work environments. He is never quite sure whether people are making fun of him and he is often at a loss when trying to read facial expressions or grasp subtle nuances during conversations. He also struggles to understand what emotions he is experiencing and although he misses Mette, he does not feel grief at her death. He is very reflective of their shared history and there is no mistaking his long held affection for his former girlfriend, but grief is just not in his emotional vocabulary. Instead, Daniel tries to make sense of his new life without her but without Mette’s protection, his trusting nature makes him a target of unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of him both at home and work.
Daniel’s innocence is refreshing yet also heartbreaking. The police have questions about his last encounter with Mette and he is genuinely perplexed when his explanations do not clear him as a suspect. Once he realizes this, he fully co-operates with their requests while at the same time investigating her death on his own. He makes a few puzzling discoveries that he tracks down but his Asperger’s makes it difficult for him to put what he uncovers into any type of understandable context until a shocking revelation helps Daniel put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
Although a bit of a slow starter, The Stages is a captivating read with an engaging cast of characters. Daniel is an interesting protagonist and viewing the world through his perspective is quite fascinating. The mystery aspect of the storyline is well-written and Thom Satterlee does a superb job of concealing the perpetrator’s identity and the motive for the crime right until the novel’s stunning conclusion. Overall, a clever yet baffling mystery with a unique premise, unexpected plot twists and an atypical lead character that I highly recommend to fans of the genre.