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The Executor

The Executor

3.5 10
by Jesse Kellerman

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Joseph Geist takes a job as a "conversationalist" for a wealthy, enigmatic woman who offers him a place to stay in her big, beautiful house. But as his friendship with his employer evolves from conversationalist to lodger to caretaker, Joseph finds himself at odds with the woman's troubled nephew, and decides to do whatever is necessary to maintain his position.


Joseph Geist takes a job as a "conversationalist" for a wealthy, enigmatic woman who offers him a place to stay in her big, beautiful house. But as his friendship with his employer evolves from conversationalist to lodger to caretaker, Joseph finds himself at odds with the woman's troubled nephew, and decides to do whatever is necessary to maintain his position.

Editorial Reviews

Maureen Corrigan
…deliciously doom-laden…The fun of reading Kellerman's novel…arises not from the shock of the inevitable (murder, most foul!), but from the clever twists and turns that lead readers up to and away from the climactic moment…Geist's lively and erudite narration is a pleasure to be misled by.
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
There are eerie echoes of Barbara Vine in The Executor, Jesse Kellerman's stunning novel of psychological suspense: the clinical dissection of a mind that refuses to examine itself; the disintegration of moral boundaries when such a mind develops a fixation; the macabre humor of people who think too much; and, most unnerving, a certain playful cruelty about matters of life and death.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
At the start of this outstanding novel of psychological suspense, Kellerman's fourth (after The Genius), 30-year-old philosophy grad student Joseph Geist finds himself at loose ends after being suspended from Harvard (for failing to do any work) and breaking up with his longtime girlfriend. When Geist answers an ad in the Harvard Crimson seeking a serious “conversationalist,” he ends up being paid to debate free will for a few hours a day with Alma Spielmann, an elderly woman of Viennese origin. After the two bond, Spielmann offers Geist free room and board at her Cambridge house, where she lives alone. The sudden appearance of Spielmann's difficult nephew, who relies on Spielmann's financial support, threatens Geist's comfortable relationship with his benefactor. The plot builds to a climax that's as devastating as it is plausible. Few thriller writers today are as gifted as Kellerman at using lucid and evocative prose in the service of an intense and nail-biting story. (Apr.)
Library Journal
So here's the setup: Joseph, a Harvard philosophy graduate student, has just been kicked out by his girlfriend and needs a job and a place to live. He responds to an ad for a "conversationalist" and is hired by enigmatic octogenarian Alma, who was a philosophy student herself decades earlier in Austria. Then Joseph moves in. It's a charmed life, briefly, until Alma dies and he reaches a moral crossroads. There's her drug-addled nephew to contend with, and a couple of curious police officers wondering about the circumstances of Alma's death. Violence ensues, and from then on, it's pure torture for Joseph and the reader, really. VERDICT The buildup is excruciatingly slow—think bad Dostoyevsky—and the protagonist so unsympathetic that it's difficult to care about his quandaries. Kellerman incorporates clever and classic elements, but his fourth novel (after The Genius) would have sufficed as a taut short story of psychological suspense. This is only for those intrigued by philosophical questions and moral debates. Anticipate some demand from the literary thriller set but hope for a more energetic pace with his next title. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/09.]—Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib, Fairfield, CA

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jesse Kellerman is the author of Potboiler, The Executor, The Genius, Trouble, Sunstroke. and with Jonathan Kellerman, The Golem of Hollywood. His books and plays have won several awards and an Edgar Award nomination. He lives in California.

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Executor 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
This book was fascinating for about three fourths of the way and then it seems like somebody else wrote the ending. John Geist is a graduate student at Harvard working on his PHD. Having been in the program for eight years and producing nothing, his "supposed advisor" is fed up with him and removes him from the active enrollment. He is also kicked out of his shared apartment by his girlfriend. He ends up living temporarily with a friend. He then finds an ad in the school newspaper for a conversationalist. He answers the ad and meets an intriguing elderly rich woman named Alma. Alma takes a liking to him immediately as they share the same interests especially when it comes to philosophy. alma hires John to come for a few hours a day just for conversation and pays him well for his time. John has had a difficult past, with a brother that did when John was very young and an abusive father. He seems to want to totally want to forget his past and his conversations with Alma seem to rekindle in him an interest in working on his thesis. Eventually, John moves in with some crazy girls that make it difficult to sleep. Alma sensing his problem offers that John live with her in her mansion. John moves in and then appears to really be endeared to her until one day he meets her "creepy" nephew Eric. Eric is a bad boy who apparently has been to jail once or twice. Eric sees how his aunt has taken a liking to John and comes to John with a proposal. That is the point where the book starts to go a little downhill. Also, later John's girlfriend seems to want him back but only after exposing her shallow self. Had it not been for the ending of the book I would have given it five stars. As the first three quarters of the book are excellent I still give it four.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Harvard University kicks out thirty year old graduate student Joseph Geist for slacking; the philosophy major was doing none of his class work. Reeling from that blow though he knows he is at fault, Joseph takes a second shot to the gut when his girlfriend ends their longtime relationship. Needing gainful employment that does not require work, he answers a personal ad in the Harvard Crimson. Elderly Austrian expatriate Alma Spielmann seeks a meaningful conversationalist to discuss and argue issues. He answers the call and is hired. They become more than just employer-employee as the pair becomes friends. She invites him to move into her Cambridge house for free room and board; he accepts her offer. However, Alma's nasty nephew Eric resents the non-family freeloader though ironically he depends on his aunt's generosity for his finance and he occasionalyl visits her to see if the old hag's health is failing. This is a superb psychological suspense thriller that grips the audience once the triangle is set as fans of Jesse Kellerman anticipate something bad is going to happen but wonder to whom. The three key players come across as real with Joseph caring for his employer and Alma for her employee with angry Eric stirring the mix. Jesse Kellerman is at the author's best with this strong character driven thriller that will readers wondering throughout who if any will be left standing. Harriet Klausner
GBJJR More than 1 year ago
A collection of generally unlikable characters that moved along with some hope of redemption, but completely lost it about three fourths of the way though.  I had no interest in reading the rest and just skimmed it to see if it changed to something more worthwhile at any point, but it didn't.  I liked this least of anything written by any of the Kellermans.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is another exciting & intriguing book from Jesse Kellerman Kept me guessing right up to the last few pages Great escape!
A_C_Schumacher More than 1 year ago
I won an advanced copy of this book. I really enjoyed reading the book for the most part. I wasn't very interested in the plot and was very disappointed with how it played out, about 3/4 of the way through, and kind of bummed by the ending. However, the writing is excellent. It was really thought provoking and the writing flowed very well. I haven't read any of his other books but based on this one I would be interested in picking up his others.