There seems to be a standard way to write ‘flashback’ books. You start with a scene completely out of context and the rest of the book consists of helping you understand that first scene. Then, you see the same scene again, but this time you understand what you’re seeing. Things make sense.
The Upright Piano Player isn’t like that. The first scene in a grisly event that leaves the reader with a bit of whiplash. I read the rest of the novel trying to figure out how it connected in with the rest of the book. Sure, I got to know the key players. I came to understand why they reacted the way they did in the scene and why it was so tragic. However, the scene never plays again. I finished the book and went right back to the beginning to re-read it. I was still disoriented. It still felt out of context with the story that followed it.
I guess I could give the same comment to most of the book. The main story of the book is a fairly typical family drama. Generational drama. Medical drama. Coming to terms with aging drama. A little romantic tension. And then there is one character who is so unusual he stands out like a sore thumb. He is irrational and violent in an unpredictable way. It leaves you unsettled as you read, not knowing when he will re-appear or what damage he will bring.
The biggest impression I had thinking back on the book was how tightly written the book was. It wasn’t a full length novel, but the author, David Abbott, managed to hold the tension throughout. There was no moment when I considered putting the book down or my eyes started to wonder to the other books waiting to be read. It’s rare for a book to keep up a tension throughout, particularly since the main character, Henry, is not particularly likeable.
I would recommend this book to people who like good writing. However, I do so with the caveat that the one rogue character is very disturbing, and brings in a violent and graphic edge you might not expect in this type of novel.