If Paradime, the latest thriller from Alan Glynn, isn’t likely to make it onto anyone’s list of the 10 best doppelganger narratives, it is a wild tale that will keep readers happily entertained on an idle summer’s day. Set in New York City, it is the story of Danny Lynch newly returned from an aborted stint in Afghanistan working as a military dining room supervisor for a private contractor. He has lost his job after having been witness to some horrendous criminal behavior by his employers. Now living with his girlfriend, he wanders the streets aimlessly, supposedly looking for work, but really suffering from a kind of PTSD resulting from the horrors he has seen.
When lawyers for the company he worked for threaten to withhold his final paycheck, he makes an appointment to complain, and perhaps threaten some whistleblowing. At the meeting, even before he has a chance to threaten anything, he is cajoled by a company agent into a monetary settlement as well as some promised help in getting a job.
A wonderful job in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant materializes almost immediately, and it is while working there, that Danny perhaps unsurprisingly notices one of the customers—Teddy Trager, a wealthy venture capitalist. Unsurprisingly because Trager and Lynch are exact doubles. It doesn’t take long before Danny is consumed with Trager. Trager, as often happens in doppelganger stories, becomes an obsession that takes over his life.
Paradime is a workmanlike thriller that combines elements of classic identity impersonation like that in The Talented Mr. Ripley, governmental overreach, and criminal capitalism, with a bit of science fiction and psychological thriller. Unlike the typical double in a story like Poe’s “William Wilson,” Trager is not a figment of Lynch’s imagination. They do in fact look alike, and with a little help from a variety of interested parties, the life of the rich and famous can become possible for Danny.
While there are a number of other characters filling the pages—Lynch’s girlfriend, Trager himself, Trager’s girlfriend, Trager’s business partner, a psychologist—they are all background characters. None are drawn with any depth or dimension. Indeed, Lynch is the only multi-dimensional character in the novel. This is the story of Danny Lynch, and if he is never really admirable, he is always front and center. If he is not quite a villain hero, he is, more often than not, quite unsympathetic. Readers unable to buy into him and his emotions, his state of mind, are not likely to buy into his story. Still, he is drawn with shading sufficient to make the sale.