This week, I was delighted to partner with Adaptive books for the promotion of The Toast by Matt Marinovich. They very Kindly sent me a copy of the book, along with some very cool photo props, in exchange for an honest review. So what’s the book about?
The Toast is a novel about sibling rivalry that knows no bounds. For as long as they can remember, the Krider brothers have only found true meaning in their war with each other. Bred to viciously compete from an early age by their deranged father, they have upped the ante to dangerous extremes. But the Krider brothers have always obeyed the three sacred rules of the game: No mortal injury. Wait your turn. No end to the game.
On a sweltering day in early July, Rob and Rebecca Krider drive toward the wedding of his younger brother, Craig. A hundred guests have already arrived for the ceremony at the Old Field House. It’s a perfect day for a wedding, but before the morning is over, an unexpected tragedy will strike one of the Krider brothers and a frightening toast will be delivered by one of the guests.
As a shattered widow retreats to her home in Westchester, the surviving brother is increasingly confident he will finally get to live a normal life without the game. At first, it seems like he might be right, but as the months pass, he suddenly realizes that strange coincidences in his everyday life might have a more sinister cause. Could it be that the game he thought was over is threatening to destroy his life again? But who’s pulling the strings now that his only archrival is dead? It’s clear that one last turn is being taken, and all the old rules are being broken, except for one: there is no end to the game.
Anyone who has a brother or sister will know that sibling rivalry, most often palyful, can sometimes get a little out of my hand. I have a little sister and we had our fair share of screaming matches and even physical fights, but the Krider brothers take that rivalry to a truly screwed up and outright disturbing level. That’s what this novel does so beautifully- it takes the known, the everyday, the average and twists it until it’s deformed beyond recognition and for that alone, it’s a fantastic read. From bumping into someone in a doctor’s waiting room to a flat tyre, everything is a move in a bigger game and nothing is what it seems.
Flipping between the perspective of the younger Krider brother Craig and his sister in law, the now widowed Rebecca, we learn about the ever escalating game and the toll it’s had on those participating. As a result of this back and forth perspective, the reader is constantly left wanting more and the tension remains high throughout. I have read plenty of thrillers and more often than not, they can lose a little of their pace along the way. That is not the case with this book, which has just enough action to keep the pace steady, just enough questions raised to make the reader want to turn to the next page to find their answer.
The characters are all wholly unlikeable, but for once that’s not a problem. Rob delights in the psychotic game he is playing and seems like he is evolving into his sadistic father quite nicely. Craig comes across as slightly pathetic at times, wishing to escape the game but at the same time actively participating in it and producing just as many awful moves as his twisted older brother. Rebecca, who unlike the brothers, willingly enters into the game rather than being bred into it by a parent, flits between being as cold and nasty as her husband Rob and being one of those pathetic women who desperately clings to the hope they can change a man. However, the author depicts their internal struggles brilliantly, explaining why they are the way they are and how they came to be at this incredibly low point in their lives, so that I as a reader, whilst being disgusted by these characters and the things they do, found myself genuinely hoping there could be some kind of happy ending salvaged from the wreckage of their lives. The game is the true star of the novel, showing what terrible things human beings are truly capable of doing, even to the people they love most in the world, and the participants of such a game could never be honest and kind.
My only criticism is that, one of the narrators actively lies to the reader. I always hated it in ‘who done its’ and crime fiction, when the detective would solve the crime right at the end and reveal the murderer based on information and clues the reader was never provided. It feels like cheating when the reader cannot guess what is happening in a book based purely on lies or withheld information. Saying that, on this occasion, the idea of the author somehow ‘cheating’ the reader fits perfectly with the nature and subject matter of the book. Perhaps we too, are a part of the game.
This is an incredibly dark and original book and at under 200 pages, it’s a quick and enthralling read. I give it five stars out of five and whole heartedly recommend it. So what do you think, do you want to join in with the game too?