...simultaneously nightmarish and utterly compelling; she perfectly captures the voice of a man who does not recognize his own privilege, who thinks he is trying his best but is really doing his worst. As A Good Man speeds toward its violent conclusion, readers will be captivated. A masterful, suspenseful tale told by an ultimate unreliable narrator.
... chillingly good ... infused with a low-grade dread from the very first page ... Katz has delivered a whip-smart, beautifully written meditation on marriage, masculinity and the thin line between happiness and disaster.
... by the end of the first 20 pages, debut author Ani Katz has racked up a whole armoury over the mantelpiece. If you were to guess where all this is heading, it’s highly likely that you’d be right: every single narrative gun (or billy club) goes off in exactly the way you would expect. For some, perhaps that will be a recommendation ... No one is likely to call A Good Man problematic, no matter how unpleasant the events it describes. What Katz gains in political clarity, though, she loses in artistry. The novel is deeply atmospheric and morbidly compelling, with a near-total commitment to character that suggests a powerful talent. But fiction needs problems and ambiguity and – when writing about unsettling things – a willingness to lead the reader into moral peril. The most enduring monsters are the ones we have to acknowledge as partly ourselves ... While Thomas is obviously bad, none of the women in his life reaches the level of characterisation where we might feel something for them beyond the pity due to victims. This is a problem created by first-person narration, but it is also a problem that can be solved, as Jackson and Nabokov show. Without that tension of sympathies, however accomplished this novel is in many ways, it leaves nothing of itself when the last page is turned.
Katz’s allusions to operas can be quite heavy-handed, especially when they feature somewhat stodgy plot synopses ... One of the striking things about the book is Thomas’s icky tone, as he constantly romanticises, almost Disneyfies women. At first I thought Katz was laying it on a bit thick, but in fact she is preparing the groundwork for Thomas’s later possessive paranoia. There is some sloppy writing, however: would Thomas really liken his wife to a Picasso? Could he really smell her breath across the dining table? It’s not always clear if this carelessness is Thomas’s or Katz’s own ... it’s perhaps still not quite heady enough to make the shift from a bad few weeks to all-out tragedy entirely convincing. I’m sure many readers will find A Good Man sordidly gripping, but I didn’t feel too keen to spend the time with this distinctly nasty man.
Parts of the book are truly gripping, although there are dry spells that leave you wondering where the story is going. But as the protagonist’s ugly upbringing is slowly unravelled, he becomes a little more interesting as a character, appearing not so ordinary and more like the rest of us, despite still appearing relatively unaffected by his experiences ... Katz has created an edgy debut with a disturbingly unforgettable ending.
Katz plants portents throughout the book until the shocking denouement. She uses opera stories to signal plot twists, as Thomas is a devotee who listens to The Met broadcasts and identifies closely with Tannhäuser, a Wagnerian tragic hero. Her writing is good enough to make the reader believe, or want to believe, that the portents --- unsettling conversations, unexpected outbursts and underreported exchanges --- add up to the horror that befalls this family. Perhaps, but not quite ... Still, A Good Man is an absorbing story that keeps the reader involved in its characters well beyond the last page.
As she expertly builds a growing sense of dread, Katz creates an unsettling atmosphere of paranoia, fear, and rage, hinting at the catastrophe to come ... This is the sort of relentless novel you can’t put down even when you’re afraid to read what happens next. An unnerving and absorbing exploration of modern masculinity and how the seeds of violence are sown.