The Stavros Manuscript
The Stavros Manuscript is a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the final turn of the page. Leonard Stavros claims he used to be an intelligence agent; a cryptanalyst tasked with breaking some of the most intricately complex ciphers and codes to have seen the light of day. He is a linguist, mathematician, and self-proclaimed hyperpolyglot fluent in twenty-one languages.
He’s also living in a dream world removed just enough from reality to keep the reader guessing as to the exact nature of Stavros himself. Is he mentally ill and in need of professional help? A brilliant mind pushed too far over the edge with an insurmountable task that has no sane solution? Or is he a vagrant? Suffering from delusions of grandeur whilst keeping company with imaginary friends, foes, and lovers?
All we know is, whatever the ailment, the notorious Paisley Codex is the cause. The mysterious manuscript that proved to be uncrackable, indecipherable, and maddening. It ruined Leonard’s reputation, his obsession with solving its riddles causing him to lose his job, his wife, and perhaps even his sanity. Now he must face the cause of his ignominious downfall all over again when two unsavory characters drag him into the seedy underbelly of a city that seemingly never sees the light of day.
Wheeler does an incredible job with the pacing of the plot and handles the aspects of Stavros’ blurred sense of reality in a way that highlights the fallacy of his entire situation without giving way to the usual “gotcha!” type plot twists that tend to be popular within the genre. Without wanting to give too much away, the seemingly innocuous coincidences between what Stavros experiences with the supporting cast of characters when the reader first comes into the story and those that he relates later as he begins to unpack his past make for a very intriguing ouroboros of storytelling that can be very difficult to effectively relate without pounding the reader on the head with it.
All that being said, I did find Leonard himself and the way he relates to other characters, especially female characters, to be a bit too in line with his delusions of grandeur and importance; he’s very condescending and quite honestly an insufferable misogynist. Granted, that’s exactly the type of character he’s written to be, it was just grating to listen to him go on about how intelligent and accomplished he was every other paragraph.
Fans of A Scanner Darkly and House of Leaves will enjoy this labyrinthian thrill ride.
|The Marion/Manville Press
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