- Dangerous Fixations
Lee L. Krecklow
Winter Goose Publishing
248Pages; Print, $13.99
Lee L. Krecklow’s The Expanse Between is an emotionally charged psychological thriller that walks a fine line between a slightly neurotic, noir-esque narrative about shattered characters brought together by bizarre circumstances and a literary novel that explores the way desire and obsession tend to take over and push individuals to act in ways that go directly against their best interests. Written from three different points of view and including fragments of a novel one of the characters is writing based on another, The Expanse Between cleverly blurs the line between fiction and reality while showing how quickly mere curiosity can turn into something far more sinister.
Thomas Stone was once a successful author, but now lives as a social recluse and hasn’t written in years. One night, he witnesses a violent encounter between his neighbor and her boyfriend while looking out the window. What he sees stirs up memories that make him start writing again. The neighbor becomes his muse and her life morphs into new pages of fiction. Stone needs more or her, so he recruits a young man named Gregory in a bar to get close to the neighbor and find out more about her. Soon the situation worsens as Gregory refuses to continue providing information about Karen and Stone’s passionate curiosity becomes a dangerous infatuation.
On its surface, this novel is a tense, beautifully written account of three lives coming together in a strange context and the way one man’s obsession ends up affecting all of them. However, just below the surface, the narrative acquires great richness as it slowly transforms into a character study. Stone is an old man whose frustrations and anger have given a cantankerous personality. Gregory is a father struggling with his ex and a gambling addiction as he drifts in an aimless haze. Karen is a woman who wishes she could be stronger, loves music, and is having a hard time escaping the clutches of her previous, abusive relationship. All of them are nuanced, multilayered characters whose flaws make them human and vulnerable to the agendas of others. They are all also likeable in their own ways. For example, Stone, perhaps the easiest one to dislike, finds something that gives him new life, and that makes his disgraceful actions somewhat understandable. Once Krecklow shares with readers what Stone has discovered in Karen, judging him ceases to be an easy process:
After her fight, after he witnessed her attack, he’d written like he hadn’t in years. He composed on a clear path, guided, moving along a set of steel tracks laid just for him. Something about this woman woke him, made him uninhibited, like he was finally free to speak after years of self-imposed silence, and his words flowed and the paper was a sponge. Pages and pages of work were completed, as much as his old fingers could type, and though he didn’t sleep, he felt rested and reborn when morning came, immediately hungry for more. So he stared out the window and watched again.
The Expanse Between manages to bridge the gap between the moving, gorgeous prose great literary fiction offers and the fast-paced, edgy excitement that thrillers are known for. Whenever there is a conversation between the characters, the narrative falls into an earthy, immediate atmosphere. However, whenever there is space between characters, when they are left alone with themselves and, in the case of Stone, with their ideas about the others, the novel begins to shine with daydream-like passages and heartfelt aching for things lost and unknown.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this novel is that its somewhat predictable conclusion feels simultaneously inevitable and satisfying. As soon as Stone starts to scheme to get what he wants, an almost palpable sense of doom enters the narrative and remains there, gathering strength, all the way to the end, and it is an end that the author new had to stay with readers for a while:
Now, crouched in the hallway...