First published back in July of 2010, US born author Ryan David Jahn’s second novel ‘Low Life’ followed up from his widely praised debut novel ‘Acts Of Violence’ (2009) from the previous year. 

DLS Synopsis:
Simon Johnson is a middle-aged man who lives a lonely and miserable life in his grotty apartment; trudging through his day-to-day life of work, drink and depressing sexual relief.  However, his life takes a sudden swerve off its otherwise mundane course when
late one night he is confronted by an intruder in his apartment.  In the heat of the moment, Johnson is able to get the upper hand, and in the ensuing fight, kills his attacker.  However, what he didn’t expect when he looked into the face of his attacker was to see his own face starring back at him.

Wanting to find out more about why this man had broken into his apartment with the intention of killing him, Simon decides to take the matter into his own hands.  Simon decides to find out exactly who this mysterious man  named Jeremy Shackleford really is.  And so, after putting the corpse on ice (quite literally), Simon embarks on a mission to discover what is going on.  He plans to live the life of Jeremy Shackleford, and in doing so, find out the root of the motivations behind this would-be-killer.

Everything Simon Johnson thought he knew about himself and his mundane life is about to spiral out of control.  Nothing can be taken for granted anymore, as his life becomes a mess of utter confusion on his inevitable route to self-destruction...

DLS Review:
From the outset of this utterly compelling novel, Jahn sets down an intrinsically detailed and masterfully observed vision of a life that is about to undergo a dramatic re-routing.  Jahn’s undisputable talent at visualising the novel
s setting with such a loving care for the very essence of the characters instantly ensnares and draws the reader into the tale.  Atmospherically, the novel is oppressive and bleak, with the weight of despair always on the shoulder of the reader.

Jahn’s descriptive skills don’t just rest with the premise of the storyline, but it plays an intrinsic part in the actual telling of the story as a whole.  From the moment that Simon Johnson is face-to-face with Jeremy Shackleford, the whole momentum of the novel shifts up a gear.  What is to come is a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride, filled with violence, paranoia, deceit, self-loathing and despair.

The resulting storyline is as disorientating as it is intriguing.  Jahn slowly unravels the mysteries, leaping from one surreal pillar to the next, to unsettle and baffle the reader with this truly unnerving read.  Soon enough you realise that nothing can and should be taken for granted in this unfolding puzzle.  As everything spirals further and further into a chaotic abyss of utter confusion, Jahn unabashedly hammers in the character's snowballing paranoia.

The novel successfully sets the readers nerves on edge time and time again.  A scene where our principal character savagely carves into his own cheek and jaw to achieve the same scar as his intruder is so utterly stomach churning that you feel almost consumed by the whole experience.  This really is a powerful read, with emotional turmoil as the meal of the day.

All in all, the tale is a dark and gritty masterpiece of paranoia and self-deceit.  Lurking behind the whole intrinsically conceived and elaborate storyline is a surprisingly philosophical concept.  Although not exactly a ground-breaking idea (you’ve probably already guessed the general premise behind it) the tale as a whole does still flow well, with a nail-bitingly tense ending that concludes with just the right amount of subtlety required.

The novel runs for a total of 295 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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