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The Executor

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  869 ratings  ·  203 reviews
Joseph Geist takes a job as a "conversationalist" for a wealthy, enigmatic woman who offers him a place to stay in her big, beautiful house. But as his friendship with his employer evolves from conversationalist to lodger to caretaker, Joseph finds himself at odds with the woman's troubled nephew, and decides to do whatever is necessary to maintain his position.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Jove (first published April 1st 2010)
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There's a basic plot framework that you encounter in Gothic fiction. Our heroine, in straitened circumstances, is forced to find employment. Due to her gentle upbringing she is suitable for only a few positions - governess or ladies' companion. There is a house and a mysterious (and mildly dangerous) man and a dead wife (or maybe an insane one locked up in the attic). There is often a difficult retainer of some kind and an unsavory relative. When it's a heroine in this situation, you get Jane Ey ...more
If the intent of Jesse Kellerman was to create a character so lazy, whiney, entitled and self-serving that he may very well be one of the most unlikable, unredeemable characters to spring from the page of a novel then he certainly accomplished his goal when he came up with the Harvard undergrad student named Joseph Geist, chief protagonist in THE EXECUTOR. Drawing on the fact that Geist is a philosophy major, Kellerman has devoted the initial chapters of his book to what amounts to A Novices Int ...more
Where is the thrill? I won this book from the Goodreads giveaway. I was excited to receive it as I had never read anything by this author and the premise sounded promising.

The entire first half of the book was just a story about the main character's life, no thrill at all. It would have been more interesting if the main event of the story happened at the very beginning of the book and then have the first half of the story interspersed into the action. In addition to nothing much happening for t

----- spoiler alert ------- dont read before having read the book.
Fascinating how the author was able to mix philosophy into the recipe of this dark thriller, as a tool to create a fictional person who is hyper-rationalizing the reality around him. Which is the mistake that the purely philosophical approach to reality always makes: putting all the emphasis on rationality, and therefore missing a huge chunk of life and failing to respect the deep, emotional side of being human. That mistake wi
For a former philosophy student to wander into this book is the gustatory equivalent of truffle oil. Delightful to the senses. This is not a traditional mystery more like watching a train wreck unable to avert your eyes and when the crash comes it is spectacular. The novel begins with a fairly likeable protagonist who is subsequently "let go," from the Philosophy dept in which he has been struggling to complete his dissertation. An enviable second chance comes along in this stage of his life whe ...more
Allison Dickson
I really enjoyed the first 50% of this book. But at some point, the main character started to become so unlikable that reading became a chore. The narrator, Joseph Geist, is a whining, aloof, weak-willed, emotionally ignorant prick. I could have handled that if I'd felt remotely sympathetic to his cause, but I wasn't, because he'd earned every ounce of his plight and then some. Maybe it was because of the dialogue. Try reading "Silence" or "I said nothing" after every line of spoken dialogue, an ...more
Smart and taut --, March 14, 2010
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews

This was a very fast-paced suspense thriller that grabbed me from the opening pages and didn't let go until I read the final chapter a few hours later. I could not put the book down!

The characters are believable, unique, and interesting. The prose is incredibly clever and the narrative moves along quickly as the tension builds. Although the reader is not quite sure what exactly is going to happen, it's obvious
Debbie Maskus
I was expecting a thriller mystery, and was disappointed. The majority of the book discussed Joseph Geist and his worthless life. Joseph is over thirty and does not have a job nor can he complete his dissertation. Joseph lacks ambition and drive, he owns nothing and lives cheaply with other people. The book discusses free will, and Joseph makes his biggest free will decision: he commits two murders, and then confesses to the crimes. His attitude in prison seems to be one of comfort and acceptan ...more
Jennifer Hodges Young
This story started off good, Joseph Geist, professional student, gets kicked out of his apartment that he had been sharing with his girlfriend of two years. He then learns that he has lost his funding because he cannot seem to finish his dissertation paper so he must find a job. Joseph answers an ad "Conversatioalist Sought". Alma Spielmann is looking for someone to spend time with her every afternoon just to talk, talk about anything, then when she finds out that Joseph is writing his paper on ...more
First of all, a huge thank you to the publisher for sending me this book as a goodreads first reads winner.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book and, as a result, I've really agonized over how to rate and review this book.

The first 40 pages of this book were well-written but not interesting to me, as it read much like a memoir and I'm not a big fan of memoirs. I almost put the book down at that point, but decided to give it a fair try and I'm glad I did, as it picked up at about the ti
What's great: The writing! Jesse Kellerman's writing totally rocks. He's descriptive, witty, funny, horrifying, and an expert at creating suspense. I couldn't put this book down & read it straight through, and, despite Mr. Kellerman's flaws as a writer (see below), I will read anything he writes.

What's totally, completely annoying: The 1st person (30+ male) narrator is ultimately a complete dunderhead. Another of his titles, "Trouble," suffers from the same flaw ("Genius" hints at it - this
The book was just OK in my opinion and not a patch on his previous 'The Brutal Art'
The blurb states that Mr Kellerman has a degree in Psychology and he likes to let you know with pages of ramblings taken probably from his dissertation.
The story is that of an ill fitted Psychology student who after years of non-show in his work is not only kicked out by his girlfriend, but is also kicked out of college.

He takes a chance on an advert in the student press for a 'conversationalist' and eventually
A first-reads win.

The Executor is a psychological thriller, or more accurately a philosophical thriller, that kept my interest throughout its well-written pages. The author has created a fascinating protagonist who, if not necessarily likable, deserves sympathy and even a little admiration. Without giving any of the plot away, the interest in this story lies not with what he does but how he rationalizes and process his decisions.An odd but successful ploy for a suspense thriller. Those who crave
Ruchama Feuerman
I woke up and discovered that Jonathan Kellerman's son Jesse writes mystery/thriller/suspense novels after finding his name next to his father's (and mother's and now his kid sister's) at the library. What a wonderful writer! The novel tracks Joseph Geist, a Harvard grad philosophy student from a wrong-side-of-the-tracks background whose life is unraveling (no more teaching job, can't finish his dissertation, booted out by his girlfriend and Harvard). Desperate for cash, he becomes a conversatio ...more
I won this book in a first reads giveaway.

I found The Executor to be enjoyable reading, especially the first two-thirds or so. The main problem with it is that should not be considered a suspense thriller, as it was neither suspenseful nor thrilling. However, as a character study, it is successful.

I enjoyed the author's writing style. The book is well written, intelligent and witty. I also liked the way the style changes a bit as Joseph changes throughout the progression of the story. It's a li
I have mixed feelings surrounding this book. It started off okay, then got pretty good, then steadily got worse for the last half of the book. Joseph is... annoying. He's immature and the book reads much like I imagine his dissertation did- long and full of tangents. The people in this book don't act like you would expect people to act. The whole think just felt too ridiculous to be an enjoyable book. Joseph's character change at the end was too abrupt and came completely out of nowhere. I liked ...more
Georgiann Hennelly
This was a very fast paced suspense thriller. It grabbed me from the first pages. Nothing seems to be going right for graduate student Joseph Geist. His girlfriend kicked him out his thesis is going nowhere and he,s lost all his funding. Desperate to make some money. He responds to a mysterious ad placed in the campus newspaper. When he meets the elderly placer of the ad, Alma Spielman, he believes he has found a kindred spirit and when she asks him to move in, Joseph is determined to hold onto ...more
This book was totally not what I expected.
My mother has been sending me pretty formulaic suspense novels, which I've had a hard time getting in to.
This one captivated me from the first few pages and it was a "stay up 'til it's done" kind of book. Never in a million years would I have guessed how this book ends up.
There is some suspense in the last quarter of the book, but mainly it is a psychological book that you don't realize is a psychological thriller until you're totally absorbed into it.
Ok, so the first 250 pages were interesting as they talked a lot about philosophy and free will, which is the theme throughout the book; however, the book took a weird turn somewhere around page 300. I can't say I was surprised at what happened, more disturbed that the author changed from 1st person to 3rd person, and then switched back and forth. The ending left me disgusted and disappointed. I will not read any more of this author, as I did not like his style of story telling and he failed to ...more
I am a real fan of Jesse Kellerman; he is twice the writer of either of his parents. In this novel he tried something different - a sort of rewrite of Crime and Punishment. It is certainly Dostoevskian. Here a down and out philosophy student is taken in by an old woman, commits murder, and is undone by guilt amid ruminations about free will and destiny. It is not my favorite of his novels (that would be The Genius),but it is an interesting, unique, and mostly successful attempt at a philosophic ...more
I think a lot of Goodreads reviewers expected this to be a conventional thriller or mystery, like the ones written by Jesse's famous dad, and not surprisingly they were disappointed. It's actually a dark, moody character study, and if I had to compare it somebody it would Ruth Rendell at her creepiest. With a little Poe, Dostoevsky, and Tarantino mixed in. It builds slowly, but I read the last 200 pages in one gulp, finishing at 11:45 at night (and my friends will know how bizarre THAT is).
An excellent character study. While I enjoy his parents' books (Jonathan and Faye Kellerman), Jesse's writing is much more literary. He has a way with words and characters that you don't see in most murder mysteries.

When I first started reading this book, I hated the main character. He represents everything I despise in a human being. And yet I was enthralled with the character's thought processes and rationalization of his actions.

Cannot wait for Jesse Kellerman's next book!
Jeffrey Bumiller
The newest book from Jesse Kellerman is a very effective psychological suspense novel. Kellerman has a rare ability to weave a story in a way that makes you feel so uncomfortable and nervous that it takes over your life. Luckily the book reads very quickly and you can get back to normal in a day or two. His writing is addictive. The executor is an amazing book. Screw nail biting, this book made me want to gnaw my hands off.
*This review may contain spoilers*

What's it about?

Things aren't going well for Joseph Geist when we meet him in "The Executor." Broke, homeless and alone, he's about to give up when an advert in the Crimson newspaper catches his eye. He soon finds himself employed as a conversationalist; spending a few hours each week engaged in intelligent conversation with Alma Spielmann. Things go well. So well, in fact, that Alma asks Joseph to move in. Hesitant at first, he soon comes to think of the house
I love intelligent crime and thrillers. It is possible (although not easy I'm sure) to write both cleverly and entertainingly - Peter Akroyd and A S Byatt manage it time after time. Indeed, Kellerman did just this very well in The Brutal Art. But with this book I think he's pushed his luck by inserting so much philosophy and cerebral meanderings that he runs the risk of alienating some of his readers. A look on the Amazon comments page confirms this. Probably 20% of the book could have been cull ...more
James Paul
This was actually one of my favorite reads. I couldn't tell you why, but a few years later after reading it-it still sticks out in my mind. Jesse Kellerman writes beautifully. I'm not a fan of his parents work so I'm glad he decided to take on a different genre other than murder mysteries.

The story is mediocre at best. I absolutely hate the character as an individual. What I do love about this book is how beautifully it is written, and I love the existentialistic ideas he poses about free will.
Amy Meyer
Title: The Executor
Author: Jesse Kellerman
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons, April 2010
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Summary: Things aren’t going well for Joseph Geist.
He’s broke. His graduate school advisor won’t talk to him. His girlfriend has kicked him out of her apartment, leaving him homeless and alone. It’s a tough spot for a philosopher to be in, and he’s ready to give up when an ad in the local paper catches his eye.

The ad reads: "Conversationalist wanted”.

Which sounds perfect to Jos
Nothing seems to be going right for graduate student Joseph Geist. His thesis is going nowhere, his girlfriend’s kicked him out, and he’s lost all his funding. Desperate to make some money, Joseph responds to a mysterious ad in the university paper seeking a “conversationalist.” Upon meeting Alma Spielmann, the elderly placer of the ad, Joseph believes he’s found a kindred spirit. When he’s asked to move in, Joseph becomes determined to hold onto life with his intellectual soulmate for himself, ...more
This was a well written psychological mystery novel. Joseph Geist is a struggling graduate Philosphy student who has no real means of support and finds himself suddenly out on the street after his girlfrind tosses him out. He answers a Want Ad for a "live-in conversationalist" and soon finds himself moving in with an elderly Austrian woman, Alma Spielman who he finds has a common interest in the Philosophy of Free Will. They seem to be getting along well until the woman's lazy sponge of a nephew ...more
Nancy Oakes
Actually, I liked the book but wanted to give it somewhere right around 3.5 stars. So the three stars are a bit low.

First, my thanks to Putnam publishers for sending me this book.

The Executor is very different, very slow paced right up until the end where the action kicks into gear, and more of a character-driven novel rather than plot. The main character, Joseph Geist is a career student who came from a dysfunctional family. He's taken too long to produce any results from his PhD research in Ph
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Jesse Kellerman was born in Los Angeles in 1978. His award-winning plays have been produced throughout the United States and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Most recently, he received the Princess Grace Award, given to America’s most promising young playwright. He lives with his wife in New York City.

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“Charisma is a mysterious and powerful thing. I have it in limited supply, and that which I do have functions under highly specialized conditions.” 5 likes
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