Synopsis from Goodreads: Drawn by the promise of change, young medium Ben Lebeau, moves to the big city, into the Shilts Manor—an old textile factory turned trendy loft space. There he meets seductive Lennox Van Kemp and his clan of Métis—guardians of the oldest lie. Ben is pulled into Van Kemp’s emotional circle, finally sating his most secret desires.
Against Ven Kemp’s warnings, Ben befriends his neighbor Ezra Collins—a scarred man who has taken a vow of celibacy. As Ben tries to get closer to Ezra and earn his trust, he also struggles to escape Van Kemp’s psychological grip on him. The harder Ben falls for Ezra, the more he suffers from hallucinations and memory losses. Soon, the Manor’s walls begin to close in on him and Ben must rely on his psychic abilities to survive the assault on his mind.
As Ben and Ezra unravel Van Kemp’s plans, they expose a spiritual conspiracy dating back to Christ—a conspiracy that will shake their very world and restore their Faith in humanity.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Three very distinct emotions occurred to me while reading Mel Bossa’s Suite Nineteen: total frustration, fascination, and complete satisfaction. The novel opens in Montreal’s Shilts Manor where we meet Benjamin, a troubled young man who fled his small home town after a failed affair. Adding to Benjamin’s troubles is his gift, the ability to psychically connect with those around him.
The first half of the book deals with Benjamin and his interaction with the various residents of Shilts Manor. There is the absolutely unnerving Lennox Van Kemp, his two companions Eevie and Happy and Ezra, Benjamin’s tragic and disfigured next door neighbor. Benjamin is at the heart of this group and becomes inextricably linked to each of the other main characters as they all intrigue him in a variety of ways. Lennox is charismatic, Eevie is easy, Happy is scary yet alluring, and Ezra is seemingly unknowable. These qualities are irresistible to Benjamin to the point that he begins to feel is sanity slipping away. Each interaction and event in the first half of the book always seems unfinished and this became quite a source of frustration. I always felt as if I was missing something, as if Bossa was failing to tell me everything I needed and/or wanted to know about these characters.
The second half of Suite Nineteen is everything I could have possibly hoped for it to be. Bossa further develops all of the characters revealing their schemes and motivations some of which are a bit stunning. The motivations of each and every character are bound up in their lives and their histories and understanding these characters and how they fit into the overall plot was one of the most fascinating parts of this book. I daresay you will change your opinion about nearly every character in this book!
The Bottom Line: the frustration I felt is the result of good writing: that is, Bossa set up a very complicated plot in the first half of the book and then spends the rest of the book revealing just how complicated the plot truly is. One of the strengths of Bossa’s writing is the ability to appropriately pace the release of information. Never is the unfolding of the plot rushed, everything is adequately explained, and there is never a lull in the reading. Add to this the fact that what is being explained is absolutely fascinating and you end up with a completely satisfying read.
I will however offer one warning to all potential readers: although this book is very well written and offers a plot that is fairly original it is not a book for everyone. Suite Nineteen touches on some sensitive topics like alternative lifestyles and radically alternate views of religion. For those who are not bothered by these topics, read on, this book is worth it!