At a loose end after college, Ellis Barstow drifts back to his hometown and takes a job as a reconstructionist – investigating and recreating the details of fatal car accidents. Ellis forms a bond with his boss John Boggs, who believes that if two cars meeting at an intersection can be called an accident, then anything can – where we live, what we do, even who we fall in love with.
For Ellis these things are certainly no accident and he harbours two secrets of his own. The car crash that killed his half-brother is a memory that still haunts him, and his feelings for John’s wife threaten to blow apart the men’s lives. As Ellis tries to make sense of his own life, the story’s momentum builds to a desperate race towards confrontation, reconciliation and survival.
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Nick Arvin has written a book with a heart like a vise. The detectives here are engineers, the crimes are traffic accidents, and the law is the law of physics. But somehow - don't ask me how, I was too busy turning the pages - The Reconstructionist becomes a contemplation of the broadest questions of life: How do we love one another? How do we survive the accidents of our lives? Or is it fate? Nick Arvin is an immensely gifted writer, and he has given us a thrilling, soulful book. -
There is a lot of fine, steely writing here as well as a superbly crafted conclusion that stops the traffic in more ways than one. - Financial Times
The Reconstructionist is a darkly captivating tale of a young engineer who becomes a car crash investigator, driven by the death of his half-brother as a child. His relationship with his boss and his boss' wife leads to complications in a story told with simmering tension. Arvin has a great ear for simple yet effective language. - Big Issue
Arvin's impressive second novel ... is suffused with sharp turns and minute, telling details that add up to a riveting consideration of risk and responsibility. - Publishers Weekly
Car accidents are by far the most commonplace manner of premature death in America, and it's rare to find someone who hasn't been affected by one. It's surprising, then, that so little has been written about it in American fiction ... This has changed with the appearance of a remarkable novel, The Reconstructionist. - The Denver Post
Nick Arvin grew up in Michigan and has degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and Stanford. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is the author of two books: In the Electric Eden: Stories and Articles of War, which was included in the Books of the Year in the Independent and Esquire magazine. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Rocky Mountain News, and his numerous awards include the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Boyd Award from the American Library Association, the Colorado Book Award, and fellowships from the Michener-Copernicus Society, the Isherwood Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.