Title: The Inside Out Man by Fred Strydom
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Horror
Length: 296 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
A young musician receives an unusual offer from a wealthy stranger in this haunting story of psychological horror.
Bent is a jazz pianist living gig-to-gig in a dark city of dead-ends. With no family, and no friends, he has resigned himself to a life of quiet desolation. That is, until the night he meets the enigmatic Leonard Fry.
After accepting an invitation to his countryside mansion, where Leonard resides on his own, Bent is offered a deal of Faustian proportions.
“There is a room in this house. There’s only one way in and one way out . . . There’s one lock on the door, and only one key to that lock. Now, what I’m going to ask may seem strange to you. I don’t necessarily need you to understand, but what I do need is for you to agree to help me.”
Disillusioned with his life of excess, Leonard has decided to explore the final frontier of his existence, the margins of his mind, by locking himself in a small room in his mansion for a year. In exchange for Bent’s assistance, everything Leonard owns will be Bent’s for the duration of his self-imposed imprisonment.
But there are two sides to every locked door. As the days go by, and Leonard’s true intentions become clear, Bent will find himself venturing beyond the one terrifying boundary from which he can’t be sure he’ll ever return . . . the boundary of his own sanity.
The Inside Out Man by Fred Strydom is an unusual novel with an intriguing but rather convoluted storyline.
Raised by a single mother who died when he was a teenager, Bentley “Bent” Croud is a talented jazz pianist who plays in local bars a few times a week and lives in a rundown apartment he has dubbed the “Crack Radisson”. Learning of his barely recalled father’s death, he receives a bit of a puzzling inheritance. Not long after hearing this news, he is offered a hefty sum to perform at weekend party on Leonard Fry’s large estate. After the weekend is over, Fry has another proposal for Bent which is rather bizarre. In exchange for access to all of his possessions for the next year, Bent agrees to serve Fry three meals a day after he locks himself in a room in his mansion. At first enjoying his luxurious accommodations, things take a rather odd turn after Bent meets Leonard’s friend, Jolene.
Bent is an interesting character who does not seem overly unhappy with his life when he first meets Fry. He has a passing acquaintance with his neighbors and although the bars where he plays piano are not high end, he is comfortable with the bartenders and patrons. Bent agonizes over his decisions to Leonard’s two very different proposals, but in the end, he is curious enough to agree to his benefactor’s somewhat peculiar propositions.
The Inside Out Man is well-written and at first the storyline is engaging and interesting. However, the novel quickly takes a very strange and dark turn and readers will have a difficult time knowing whether or not Bent’s experiences are real. Fred Strydom brings the confusing novel to a twist-filled conclusion that is somewhat ambiguous and rather unsatisfying.