Ellis Barstow is an engineering graduate who still hasn’t found his métier, until a chance encounter with Heather Gibson, his half-brother Christopher’s ex-girlfriend, leads to Ellis taking a job with Heather’s husband, John Boggs, in the forensic reconstruction of traffic accidents. The relationship between Ellis and Boggs is as much one of friends as one of boss and employee; but Ellis is conducting an affair with Heather – and, when Boggs finds out, he storms off on a tour of crash sites, leaving Ellis to track him down. And, before novel’s end, Ellis will have cause to re-evaluate much in his life, including the fatal accident that claimed Christopher.
Perhaps more than any other novel I have read recently, The Reconstructionist is driven by poetic logic: key events happen more because they fit the pattern of metaphor Arvin is setting up – namely , the comparison of accident reconstruction with that of ‘reconstructing a person’s life and motives. This does allow one to look back to the telling with a certain satisfaction – one can see that, yes, maybe that set of circumstances was a little unlikely, but it was right for the story. However, I feel the book sags a little too much in the middle, spending too long on Ellis’s search for Boggs, to build properly to its ending. Still, Arvin’s prose is smooth, successfully evoking a character for whom detail is vital, without getting swamped with too much of that detail. The Reconstructionist is a decent enough short read, but unfortunately not as satisfying in the round as one would wish.
Nick Arvin’s website