A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Flaw in the Design follows Gil, a creative writing professor at a small, liberal arts college in Vermont. Gil lives with his wife, Molly, and their two daughters, Ingrid and Chloe.
They have a rather peaceful life; typical family stuff. That is until Gil’s sister and her husband are killed in a car accident, leaving their teenage son, Matthew, an orphan. Since Gil is the boy’s Godfather, and closest living relative, they agree to take him in and Matthew joins their family in Vermont.
At this point, you may be thinking things like, oh nooooo, what a tragedy, poor Matthew. You also may be thinking that Gil would welcome his nephew with open arms; like, of course he would lovingly take him in. He’s family.
But, no, you would be wrong on all accounts. Not poor Matthew, not loving Uncle Gil, zero open arms, forget everything your instincts tell you to think.
The truth is, Gil can’t stand his nephew. He thinks Matthew is a spoiled brat. Actually, it’s worse than that, he thinks Matthew is evil. They have a history, going back for as long as Gil can remember he has seen a wickedness in Matthew.
After an incident at Matthew’s parents Montauk estate, Gil had essentially written him off. Not just Matthew, but his sister and her husband as well. Gill called out Matthew on some unsettling behaviors and his sister refused to believe him. They didn’t see much of each other after that.
Regardless, Matthew’s legal team is fairly insistent, the boy needs to go live with them in Vermont. The buck stops with Gil. Speaking of bucks, now may be a good time to mention that Matthew’s parents were exceedingly wealthy. We’re talking tens-of-millions of dollars wealthy.
It’s all Matthew’s now. Through a series of Trusts, Matthew will live comfortably for the rest of his life and some of that may just trickle down to Gil and his family. A small detail the professor can’t ignore.
After Matthew moves in, Gil is extremely uncomfortable. He’s not being fooled by Matthew’s charming ways. He knows what the boy is capable of and he’s not letting down his guard for a moment.
As Matthew begins to win over his wife and his daughters, Gil becomes even more desperate for people to see what he sees. It becomes a bit of an obsession.
Matthew can tell his Uncle is on the brink. He likes to push. He’s happy to play with the exceedingly unnerved professor, but is it all just a game, or is Gil actually right?
This was a lot of fun to read. The tension is real. It’s a true Psychological Thriller. I was impressed with the character work and the depths to which Gil’s musings, suspicions and subsequent obsessions were explored.
Matthew was such an interesting character as well. Your quintessential rich bad boy, playing fast and loose with everyone around him. I loved the back-and-forth. It has a real cat-and-mouse vibe, but in an interesting way.
The further I progressed in the story, the more I started to second guess what was happening. Who really is the cat, who really is the mouse, or do we have a cat-cat situation happening? What’s up, what’s down?!
I made certain assumptions. I believed what the characters were telling me, but was I wrong? Was this an unreliable narrator situation? Side note, I still love an unreliable narrator. It never gets old for me.
You could cut the tension with a knife throughout this story and I loved the ending. I know the ending won’t be for everyone, but for me, it left a wicked little grin on my face and nothing makes me happier than that.
My only slight critique was that I felt like there were certain sections that dragged a little for me. Anything that didn’t involve Matthew directly, I was sort of rushing through to get back to the present action.
With this being said, overall, I really enjoyed this. It was so well plotted and the intensity was super fun and engaging.
I am definitely looking forward to picking up more from this author in the future. I walk away impressed.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy to read and review.
This had me at the edge of my seat. I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a smart, edgy, head-spinning Psychological Thriller.
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