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Duplicity is a dark confessional thriller, a ghost story, that grabs you by the throat and shakes you into submission

Duplicity is a dark confessional thriller, a ghost story, that grabs you by the throat and shakes you into submission. Peter Selgin is a prolific writer of poetry, plays, craft books, and children’s literature. He is also an accomplished illustrator.  But Peter Selgin did not write this novel, a psychopathic entity did, and he makes no bones about it. This demon has invaded the soul of our main character Stewart Detweiler after doing away with his body by somehow making him hang himself. Depression runs in the family, but this is more. This is despair; this is something terrible. Right on the first page, this unnamed narrator makes a  dramatic gesture of crossing Selgin’s name out as the author and replacing it with his new one, Stewart. I have never experienced a situation in which the narrator physically takes over the book in this way. Bravo Peter! 

The demonic creature tells his tale not to confess his actions and be forgiven but to show off like Louis de Pointe du Lac in the book “Interview with a Vampire.” His voice drives the narrative. But our demon has not yet come into his own and named himself. He is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world but still a powerful hypnotist- a Svengali in the genre of Edgar Allen Poe.  He’s also is from another time using outdated literary phrases that start with Dear reader. No dear reader, you are not going anywhere.

He’s pompous and delights in revealing his passive-aggressive tendencies and intellectual prowess by name dropping familiar talent like  Shakespeare and Dickens but then ups the ante and adds Dazai’s “No Longer, Human,” hoping that most of us will feel insecure, unsure, and look it up. Count me in.  So when he tells us how we should feel and what we would do, we believe him.

Before I knew it, I became complicit in the gruesome deaths that occurred in the haunted cabin in the woods. The genie can't be put back in the bottle, and I had no choice but to ally myself with a psychopath who lays in wait for his next victim.

Before Stewart Detweilter died under questionable circumstances, he was a semi well adjusted academic living in New York City, navigating his way between the West Side of Manhattan and Brooklyn in cramped apartments and 5 story walk-ups. As he struggled to write a novel, his twin brother Gregory or rather Brock Jones Ph’D., enjoyed the fruits of a wildly successful self-help book called “Coffee, Black,” which sold the philosophy that changing one little thing in life, like ordering black coffee when you take it with cream and sugar will have a ripple effect that changes personal energy in wonderful and unexpected ways.

 But things start to go terribly wrong, and one by one, the brothers are drawn to their father’s cabin, an abandoned A-frame, a place not of this earth where gutting a dead body so it won’t float in the lake seems like just the thing to do on Sunday afternoon… before you fit a rope around your neck.  

I hope there is a second sequel. I must know who this evil entity is, why he’s here, who will be his next victim? And what is it about the cabin in the woods that attracts the innocent and makes them expire their own lives in such a gruesome manner? 

Reviewed by

I have an M.A in Eng Lit, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Writers Union. I like defined character archs and plot structures. You will receive a honest review. "We are not here to race one another to the top but to keep others from falling down." Kayhallny@gmail


About the author

Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. He has written a novel, three books on the craft of writing, two essay collections, plays, and several children’s books. His memoir, The Inventors, won the 2017 Housatonic Book Award. view profile

Published on December 14, 2020

Published by Serving House Books

120000 words

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by