Four months after the commission of a violent crime, Kaspar Traulhaine is approached by a stranger who claims to have witnessed everything and who coldly announces his intention to turn him over to the authorities in three days time. As the hours pass, Traulhaine struggles with his conscience, his desire to remain free, and a growing urge toward violence against his tormentor, who offers no reason for his sudden appearance and no terms for his continued silence.
I struggled with this story. Specifically, I struggled with Kaspar and forming a bond with such a character whom I find very difficult to believe capable of committing murder.
When Montgomery approaches him with the message that Kaspar has three days till he would turn him into the authorities for his crime coupled with no demands that could possibly dissuade the action, Kaspar is left to writhe under the pressures of his guilt, his fragile freedom, and the perplexing motivations of this stranger.
Paranoia is the driving force of this story as Kaspar comes to imagine that everyone around him exists for the sole purpose of his torment and, or, destruction.
Despite the testimony of his hatred and anger towards Montgomery, I never quite felt the aggression. That, because quite simply, it is never acted upon. Kaspar proves all too willing to play the puppet in the psychological game, convinced that there is no escape to Montgomery’s master plan in which any act no matter how big or small on Kaspar’s part is exactly what Montgomery expects.
The taunts, repetitive contemplations, and striking analogies keep the story intense. Yet, the lack of desperation to flee or assertively confront his tormentor trampled much of my enjoyment.
There’s obvious similarities between Aldous and Kaspar. While I felt drawn to Aldous’s impulsive actions, I was equally put off by Kaspar’s lack of. He was pathetic, as so effectively pounded into his head by Montgomery. As one that responds to complete control or complete loss of control, Kaspar’s simple acceptance of his pronounced sentence made me want to torment him myself, if only to make him *do* something.
Plausible. Plausible that I was the monster and he was shrinking from me, I was an insect who he thought he’d caught cupped in his hand, pinned in a tissue, but when he checked I was gone and now he felt me everywhere on his skin all at once.