The Nothing Man, by Catherine Ryan Howard

Trigger warning for rape.

The Gardaí called him the Nothing Man because they had nothing on him. It’s been almost twenty years since the multiple rapist and murderer committed his last crime, but a new book by one of the survivors of the Man’s attacks has just been published. The Nothing Man, by Catherine Ryan Howard, opens with a security guard in a large department/grocery store spotting a woman with a copy of the survivor’s book and suddenly panics. The book comes with a promise that the survivor will finally hunt down the man who killed her family—the very same man who just furtively stole a copy from the store where he works.

It takes a few chapters before the name of the security guard is revealed, but we know that it’s him. We know more about the survivor. Eve Black tells her stories through the book-within-a-book, also called The Nothing Man. Brief sections show the security guard spinning with increasing anxiety that he might finally be caught. Most of the book is comprised of chapters from Eve’s book. Not only does Eve’s book contain terrifying rapes and murders committed by the Nothing Man, it also contains Eve’s life after the mass murder of her family.

Compared to the Nothing Man’s own sections, all of which are heavily flavored with his disdain for everyone he encounters and his desire not to be finally caught, Eve’s chapters are beautifully, honestly written. Eve has thought a lot more about the Nothing Man than he ever thought about her. Because she’s spent the last almost twenty years thinking about what happened and what it means to be the victim of a crime, Eve’s words make us think about crime in a way that traditional procedurals and thrillers do. Eve makes us think about the survivors as individuals, as more than just a hit count. She also makes us think about what it’s like to live as a person who others vaguely recognize as someone they’ve seen on the news.

What I liked most about The Nothing Man (Howard’s, not Eve’s) was that, in addition to its psychological depth, are the final chapters. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to ruin this book for other readers. I’ll just say that those last chapters are a brilliant conclusion to a story about a man who thought he got away with his crimes and a woman who refused to let those crimes remain in the past.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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