The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle

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The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Legal eagle Skip Gerber is leaving his office building for the night, when a man he has never seen before hands him an overcoat and disappears out of a nearby exit. Who is the man and why has he given Skip a beautiful, vintage coat? Is this some sort of mistake or mix-up and what is he supposed to do with it now? As Skip begins to rummage in the pockets for clues, he realises that his day is not going to turn out quite the way he imagined.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: April 2015
Publisher: nthposition press
ISBN: 978-0992618520

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Why would anyone - he was soon to ask himself innumerable times - take a coat from a complete stranger only because it had been offered?

Skip Gerber steps off the elevator after a long day at work; the foyer of his office building is busy and buzzy and he does not notice the man holding the overcoat until the man hands it to Skip, telling him to take very good care of it. Skip unthinkingly grasps the coat and before he has the chance to realise what he is doing - and that he is now holding an overcoat of unknown providence - the man disappears out of the exit door to the building and into the throng.

Skip hurries after him, desperately trying to recall the man’s features so as to recognise him again, but quickly realises that the man is lost to him in the crowded New York streets. Skip considers the overcoat. It is well-made and expensive. He carefully slides his hand into each pocket to see if perhaps there is a clue to the owner within. To his relief, he finds a business card printed with a name and an address. It is, at least, a place to start and as Skip is about to set off in search of the address (one that is not so far from his office) a passer-by glances at the coat and, somewhat strangely and a little menacingly, tells him …a very nice coat… you should take very good care of it. Skip is a little unsettled by the comment but hurries, all the same, to the address on the business card to see if he can reacquaint the overcoat with its owner.

David Finkle writes for a great number of well-known, household US publications covering The Arts in their many and varied guises. More of a short story than a novel, The Man With The Overcoat is loaded with detail in the minutiae and philosophical questions about the Life and The Universe and to be honest with you, even at a mere 192 pages, it is not for the faint of heart. It looks bitesize but don’t let that fool you: The Man With The Overcoat is more akin to being asked if you want to take the blue pill or the red pill… it is a journey of the self that will creep into your subconscious in quite the way that the author intended!

For my two-pennorth, it was a bit deep. There’s nothing wrong with a rummage around the psyche, but to be frank, the detail – or rather the overwhelmingly titanic amount of it - was a tidge on the excruciating side for me. Finkle describes a room and takes an entire page to do it. When there are only 192 of them in total, you can imagine that discovering there is nothing of actual relevance about the contents of said room with regard to the plot, it rather feels like he is just showing off.

The same could be said for the overuse of inexplicably complicated words. I like to reach for the dictionary as much as the next person if I am to continue this lifelong curve of learning (lexicographical geekiness aside) but looking up farkakteh (randomly, a Yiddish word meaning of poor quality – and I will have you know that I know LOTS of random Yiddish words including the Yiddish word for lawnmower, but I digress) to describe a dog walking schedule, just seemed like Finkle was winning a bet with a drinking buddy about odd words he could slot into his next article or, in this case, novel, without anyone noticing!

Without casting gender-stereotypes for its audience, I’d have to say The Man With The Overcoat is not really a female read… Skip is not the most likeable of people; perhaps his real-estate lawyerliness comes through in spades and thus adding to his loathability, but I think not. Now, that said, I do not by any stretch wish to come across as rubbishing this book. It is exceptionally well written and, as I said earlier, very thought-provoking in its intensity. To level the reviewing playing field, I even researched other reviews for this book and found one that raved about it… I was grateful to learn that it was penned by a fellow writer because if I am honest, my interpretation of the book most assuredly didn’t tally with his.

In summary, you may or may not enjoy it. The jury is still out for me.

If The Man With The Overcoat sounds like it may be your bag, then you might also like to take a look at Harry Lipkin, Private Eye: The Oldest Detective in the World by Barry Fantoni which we very much enjoyed. Similarly, The City of Strangers by Michael Russell because we thought it dark and delicious.

Finally our thanks to the kind folks at nthposition for sending us this copy for review.

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