A professor’s life is turned upside down when he takes in his charming, wildly dangerous nephew, whose wealthy parents have just died under mysterious circumstances, in this propulsive, edge-of-your-seat debut psychological thriller.
“An absolute page-turner . . . I read it in a single sitting.”—Miranda Cowley Heller, bestselling author of The Paper Palace
The cleverest psychopaths hide in plain sight.
Gil is living a quiet life as a creative writing professor in a bucolic Vermont town, when he receives some shocking news: His sister and her husband have been killed in a car accident, and their only son is coming to live with him and his family.
Gil and his wife are apprehensive about taking in seventeen-year-old Matthew. Yes, he has just lost both his parents, but they haven’t seen him in seven years—and the last time the families were together, Matthew lured their young daughter into a terrifying, life-threatening situation. Since that incident, Gil has been estranged from his sister and her flashy, wealthy banker husband.
Now Matthew is their charge, living under their roof.
The boy seems charming, smart, and urbane, if strangely unaffected by his parents’ deaths. Gil hopes they can put the past behind them, though he’s surprised when Matthew signs up for his creative writing class. Then Matthew begins turning in chilling stories about the imagined deaths of Gil’s family and his own parents. Bewildered and panicked, Gil ultimately decides he must take matters into his own hands—before life imitates art.
Told in limber, mesmerizing prose, A Flaw in the Design is a twisting novel of suspense that brilliantly explores the tensions surrounding class, family, and the drive to control one’s own story.
About the Author
Nathan Oates’s debut collection of short stories, The Empty House, won the Spokane Prize. His stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, West Branch, The Best American Mystery Stories, and elsewhere. He has been awarded fellowships from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Missouri, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is an associate professor at Seton Hall University, where he teaches creative writing. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his family.
“This American debut explores family and class tensions in a fightover who controls the narrative. . . Great characterization and plenty of genuine suspense in a psychological thriller par excellence.”—The Guardian
“A compulsive, richly imagined literary thriller.”—The Irish Times
“I read [A Flaw in the Design] at speed in a state of high stress and anxiety, as the tension built inexorably and I began to feel just as haunted (hunted?) as the author’s protagonist. . . It's all horribly claustrophobic, in the best possible way.”—The Observer
“This book has a complex premise which includes many of the issues we are grappling with as a society.”—CrimeReads
“A Flaw in the Design is not only a deep dive into the things that can rock the cradle of a family but also an absolute page-turner. I read it in a single sitting.”—Miranda Cowley Heller, bestselling author of The Paper Palace
“A literary thriller of the highest order. Oates manages, with wisdom and insight, to explore the vulnerability of parenthood, the economic injustice of New York City, middle-age compromise, and the fallibility of storytelling, all while telling a heart-pounding tale that commanded my attention from the first sentence to the last.”—Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir
“Brilliantly constructed and psychologically astute, this novel had me turning pages late into the night and left me reeling in the aftermath of its stunning conclusion. Bravo!”—Antoine Wilson, author of Mouth to Mouth
“Get ready for a wild ride. Brutal and compelling, A Flaw in the Design is the story of a family driven toward destruction . . . This novel swerves and shocks before smashing into you, a T-bone collision you can hold in your hands.”—Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
“Menace and mendacity vie with the mundane in this skillfully told tale about ambition and grief and envy. A Flaw in the Design is an impressive debut. Cue the sequel.”—Alice McDermott, author of The Ninth Hour
“What happens when a (possibly murderous) sociopath takes a writing workshop? This is the premise of Nathan Oates’s delicious, inexorable, fast-paced tale of obsession—a thriller that will keep you reading till the end.”—Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs
“A gripping, twisty psychological thriller about the destructiveness of toxic masculinity hell-bent on protecting its own. I couldn’t put it down.”—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet and Fierce Little Thing
“A highly literary yet suspenseful debut from Oates, who weaves a stunning tale of obsession, with a surprising ending that begs for a sequel. Perfect for fans of Mary Kubica and Shari Lapena.”—Booklist
“This immersive page-turner cleverly juxtaposes the writing of short fiction with the production of stories in people’s minds. Oates is definitely a writer to watch.”—Publishers Weekly