Antoine Wilson's debut novel, The Interloper, is a thoroughly dark and uncannily disturbing assessment of psychological breakdown. It is a story that makes you think about what is normal and what is abnormal--and about the ends justifying the means. Wilson turns a typical murder-revenge story line upside down in The Interloper and leaves you feeling a bit uneasy, as if awakening from a screwy nightmare.
The story follows Owen Patterson, a manual writer for a computer software company. Initially, Owen appears to be a pretty ordinary guy, living a relatively simple life. Things take a turn when his wife's brother C.J. is brutally murdered. After C.J.'s death, Owen's wife, Patty, becomes a shell of her former self as she tries to cope with her loss. Unable to deal with his anguished wife, Owen takes matters into his own hands. He hatches a convoluted revenge plot against C.J.'s killer, Henry Joseph Raven, and, in doing so, believes he can rekindle the spark in his marriage: "I resolved then and there not to tell Patty about my plan until I had reaped its fruits . . . this was the only way I could unpoison the soil, restore justice and balance to our world, bring the old Patty back."
Under the pseudonym of Lily Hazelton, Owen begins writing letters to the incarcerated killer. He wants to make Raven fall in love with the fictitious Hazelton, intending to break the killer's heart. The letters start off impersonal but, with time, become deep and sexual. It's not long before Owen has trouble separating fiction and reality. This is when the story gets intriguing.
Owen begins to neglect his hygiene, his job, and his wife--the very reason he started this scheme. He becomes completely obsessed with seeking revenge and can't go day to day without writing Raven. He even gets upset if Raven doesn't write back in a timely fashion: "I tried not to check the PO Box for a week. It was the only way I could maintain control over the situation." Lily Hazelton consumes Owen's existence.
Raven, however, had never felt anything toward "Lily Hazelton": "One part of me was total disbelief, the other plunging through empty space . . . I felt the blood draining from my face, my stomach clenching." After coming to the realization that his initial scheme has failed, Owen concocts an even more convoluted plan to destroy Raven. Because of the depth of his neurosis, Owen doesn't see how far he has fallen and how close he is to rock bottom. He doesn't realize that he has become an obsessive-compulsive maniac--even more so than the incarcerated killer.
Wilson's well-written prose examines how obsession can lead to one's demise. With its disturbing plot and characters, The Interloper shows just how far a person will go to seek revenge. The novel also examines the shitty nature of our justice system. Wilson's debut novel may not make it into the literary canon, but it is definitely worth a close read. Wilson has a promising career ahead of him.