“Low Life” – Ryan David Jahn

I had never read an existential thriller until I finished the above mentioned book. Unlike standard thrillers where there is a relative amount of action and suspense, Jahn posits a scenario and then runs his main character through a set of daunting paces.

It does start rather slowly, detailing the boring life of a boring man. Simon Johnson lives in seeming decrepitude and has a life unworthy of a story. At same point, a man breaks into his run-down apartment and attempts to kill him. In defending himself, he kills the intruder and discovers a remarkable resemblance to the deceased. He sets about to discover who the man is and why he wanted to kill him.

There is a need to suspend disbelief initially. The character of Simon is blase at best and it is hard initially to accept that he would undertake this personal and psychological journey into a great unknown. But as the intensity builds and the answers do not seem readily apparent, we do desire to see Simon’s effort through to the end.

Jahn could have bailed out early on this premise and cut it short with a pat answer akin to the end of a CSI-type hour-long drama on television. Instead he digs and explores deeply. There are twists and turns and repositioning of the time continuum which becomes understood at the conclusion. The book is challenging in that it does not rely solely on the tools of a standard thriller but delves into what makes a person themselves or want to be someone else.

Jahn has a great blog, Guns and Verbs, which reveals some of his whimsical character as well as his considerations on the writing life. His debut novel, Acts of Violence has already been translated into several languages and he shows great promise for a long and successful career.



  1. lawrenceez said,

    May 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Looks very interesting.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      May 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Psychological thrillers, as you know, can be dramatic, emotional, and profound.


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