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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

A Flaw in the Design

Narrator: David Pittu

Random House Audio

ISBN: 9780593446706

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 03/212023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

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.

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.

My Review

Nathan Oates’ debut, A FLAW IN THE DESIGN, is brilliantly crafted, beautifully rendered, and psychologically rich.

A haunting spine-chilling psychological thriller of familial ties that bind. An unputdownable tale of grief, envy, and obsession. A blending of suspense thriller and literary fiction, readers will be salivating for a sequel.

Seventeen-year-old Matthew's wealthy Manhattan parents have died in a suspicious car accident.

He goes to live with his uncle, Gil, his wife, Molly, and two daughters, Ingrid and Chloe, in Vermont. Gil has concerns about taking in his nephew due to things from the past that were of concern. Since then, Gil has been estranged from his sister and her wealthy banker husband.

Gil is a creative writing professor. He is jealous of his handsome nephew with the multi-million dollar trust fund. He also has his own problems.

Matthew appears to be intelligent, charming, and helpful. Molly, an artist, is delighted with Matthew's knowledge of the art world.

All seems well UNTIL.

Then he signs up for a creative writing class and turns in spine-chilling disturbing stories about the deaths of his family. He is in Gil's classroom.

Alternating between the past and present, we learn more about these two characters.

Gil becomes resentful and obsessed. Is Gil the one with the problems, or is Matthew a monster in plain sight? Did Matthew kill his parents, and are they living with a sociopath? Is Gil coming unhinged and paranoid?

As the tension mounts between the two, driving Gil and Matthew to an explosive showdown and an ending that leaves us wanting a sequel.

From the stunning eerie front cover to the very last page, this one hooks you. Compelling and thought-provoking, I love literary thrillers, and A FLAW IN THE DESIGN checked all the boxes! Love the writing style.

Oates carefully unspools this dark, intimate tale of ambition, class, and family. A deliciously wicked game of cat and mouse with a jaw-dropping ending. Highly recommend. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

Thank you to #RandomHouse and #NetGalley for a gifted ARC in exchange for an honest review. #RandomHouseInfluencers

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


“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

“[A] gripping psychological thriller . . . 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

“Nathan Oates’s debut, 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 Flaw in the Design is 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, as a father takes custody of the nephew he fears will wreck his life. 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 wealthy, smarmy nephew; an aging midlist writer charged with his care; two daughters; the long Vermont winter—what could go wrong? 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

“This suspenseful debut novel keeps the reader on tenterhooks in a fearful family drama. Oh, this demands a sequel!"

—Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood

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. WEBSITE







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