Book Review: The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott by Michael Oborn

Matt Alcott by Michael Oborn is a gritty and breathless read. Matt would be all right if he could just keep off the booze. It’s already cost him his job as a journalist and his marriage, and now it might cost him his life. Someone is after the historical documents he stole when he worked as a historian for the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. The information he has is devastating. Matt needs to stay sobre to keep his wits about him to firstly survive and secondly to write his revelatory book. He flees to, of all places, Resurrection Corner. In the One Hump Bar he meets James J, the barkeep who is a reformed alcoholic and encourages Matt to turn his life round. Cate is another incentive for doing so. Slowly his damning book is written as Matt gets a grip on himself.  But powerful, persistent people don’t want it published and Matt’s isn’t the only life in danger any more.

Oborn’s style is quirky, inventive and addictive. It’s almost stream of consciousness, at times almost minimalist, sometimes absurdist, but it’s the perfect vehicle for this novel and proves an efficient way of presenting the characters and the tangling strands of plot that carry us with them. Short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters that jump from past to present as the action unfolds. The author doesn’t waste a word. There is a wide range of characters and emotions. There is the darkness of despair, spite and betrayal but also courage, loyalty, trust and love. This is an incredibly powerful, gripping novel.