Who is JT LeBeau? A bestselling crime writer, whose words have gripped the world. The only mystery greater than his stories is his true identity. One woman thinks she’s found him – her husband has millions in the bank and a letter for the enigmatic author. But the truth is far more TWISTED…
CWA Gold Dagger Winner Steve Cavanagh returns with his first stand-alone novel, Twisted. After the huge success of the Eddie Flynn series, which includes the bestselling Thirteen, Cavanagh has a bit of fun with the crime fiction genre and his readers by playing with their expectations from the minute they open the book.
It’s hard to avoid spoilers of the book so a review is difficult but what I can say is that it’s about a bestselling author JT LeBeau. Despite his enormous worldwide success, nobody knows his true identity. He’s a literary Banksy of sorts. The story proper begins with Paul Cooper who is married to Maria and who lives in the fictional US East Coast town of Port Lonely. Maria is having an affair with Daryl, a waiter in the nearby Country Club. One night, Maria discovers what she thinks is proof that Paul might be JT LeBeau. From there, the book twists and turns as a web of lies is revealed.
As Cavanagh said himself at the NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival, Belfast 2019, the book is all about twists. The first “twist” we encounter is fictional author JT LeBeau’s name appearing on the title page of the book rather than Cavanagh’s, which plays with our metatextual understanding of the genre and the figures of the narrator and author. In fact, the book is introduced with a note from LeBeau saying that this will be the last thing he writes. The reason why is revealed to us by the end. This conflation of real-life author and fictional character in this way shows that the act of writing and the role of the writer is central to the book. Although I can’t discuss the details, the book reveals LeBeau’s creative process and how much Art imitates life in his books.
In addition, the anonymity of LeBeau raises the question of how much we need to know about our authors and how important the relationship between writer and reader is. In the age of social media, we now like our authors to be vocal. To reveal themselves to us. We want to know if we agree with their politics. Or simply, if they use a non-gendered name, if they are male or female. In the case of Cavanagh, his role of co-hosting crime fiction podcast Two Crime Writers and a Microphone with fellow crime writer Luca Veste helps to voice his opinions and to draw more readers to his work as it showcases his expertise in the genre. (On a side note, I can’t recommend the podcast highly enough for all matters crime fiction, writing in general, and Will Self). In Twisted, the fact that nobody knows who LeBeau is actually adds to the mystery and seems like an anomaly in today’s world.
The book also makes us question what it is about the genre that we really love and why we love a good twist so much. Just as readers of the genre also love to be scared, they love to be surprised, to be manipulated. This is at the very core of Cavanagh’s book. And, just as fans of the genre know the plot points at which the twists usually occur, Cavanagh throws in multiple surprises, often at unexpected times, making us pay attention. Making us distrust our own expectations.
In the end, Twisted doesn’t really solve why we are so fascinated with the author but, in my opinion, that’s not its job. What it does do successfully is to make us question this relationship in the first place. It also doesn’t reveal why we love to be manipulated by our crime fiction authors. But the book does present plenty of surprises that any seasoned reader of crime fiction will appreciate and won’t see coming. This is a thriller written by a master of the genre for fans of the genre with a thoroughly impressive ending with a twist on the very last page. Cavanagh pushes the boundaries of the genre and makes readers and other writers question what crime fiction is capable of.
About the author
Steve was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At 18 he moved to Dublin and studied Law, by mistake, and went on to be a pot-washer, bouncer, security guard and call centre operative before landing a job as an investigator for a large law firm in Belfast, where he eventually qualified as a solicitor. He then moved to a smaller firm where he could practice in the field of civil rights law. Steve has been involved in several high profile cases; in 2010 he represented a factory worker who suffered racial abuse in the workplace and won the largest award of damages for race discrimination in Northern Ireland legal history. He holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy and often lectures on various legal subjects (but really he just likes to tell jokes).
Steve Cavanagh is the author of the Eddie Flynn books, a series of US-based courtroom thrillers which follow a con-man turned top lawyer.