If The Bed Falls In is a 320-page psychological thriller by Paul Casselle. It is difficult to know how interesting the cover and title are until after reading the entire novel. It was difficult for me to engage with the novel until Chapter Four. After that point, the novel was both interesting, intriguing, and confusing. Several of the principal characters have at least two names. That supports the psychological thriller component. This novel is a spy novel, a fantasy, a psychological thriller, and has an element that strays into philosophy. All elements display flashes of understated, sophisticated humor. It spent too long on my TBR shelf because of its slow start. I began the novel a couple of times, but the beginning was not engaging. There was something in the author’s promotional email that caused me to get past the slow beginning and now I am a Paul Casselle fan.
Tom begins the story in a state of despair. It is a generalized state and has no specific purpose; it is despair about life in general. Tom is a photographer of models, actors, and celebrities but it is almost a placeholder occupation as if he were waiting for something else to come along. Sarah is a girlfriend and companion which means they don’t sleep together daily. Longtime friends, Sarah has witnessed Tom’s slide into and out of addiction to various drugs of which cocaine was only one. Sarah posits that it is his past drug addiction that accounts for his despair and occasional delusions about what is real. Sarah is a doctor and suggests MRI scans to see if there is a physical reason for depression and flashes of déjà vu. This feeling is the center of the psychological element of the story.
Tom Friday sometimes fades away to become Joseph Miller. Tom and Joseph are quite different physically. Joseph is the agent 007 archetype; he is a ninja, he has fighting skills, he can develop plans to get out of impossible situations at a moment’s notice, skilled in all types of weaponry and unarmed combat and possessing a youthful physique that allows him to function in a hostile world, Joseph always has a plan B. Tom is more middle age, he wheezes as he ascends the fire escape to his photography loft, and he is conscious of his middle-age paunch. Tom and Joseph fade in and out of existence at unpredictable times in disparate circumstances that do not have a common denominator. As the story proceeds, the two will become conscious of each other and there will be increasing bleed over of the two existences. This is where the psychological element encompasses fantasy.
A further element of fantasy is Joseph’s existence and adventures in his secret agent life. Joseph is presumably MI6 (British). He might be a member of a rogue cabal in MI6 called the Bedfellows. He might even be its leader, Spring, but he is not sure of that. These uncertainties lead him to violent incidents in opposition to MI6, the CIA, and other characters around him that may have wronged him in the past and are just out for revenge. Or maybe Joseph wronged them. Joseph has a need to figure this out because with or without Joseph the cabal Bedfellows is on a mission to assassinate the President of the United States. Does he support the idea? Should he be doing something to thwart the plan? This is the spy element of the story and will please fans of that genre. For those with experience in intelligence work, this is more fantasy than anything else. Events in this section are improbable in reality. Joseph will be able to gain access to assassinate the US president in ways that make the combined security forces of several agencies and several countries appear inept. That is fantasy.
Readers will have to pay attention to characters that appear in each world but have different names. This quote is a small sample. “The door opened slowly and a head peered around it. Joseph’s stomach flipped a number of times. Standing in the doorway, wearing a white doctor’s coat, was Tilda. “Ah, there you are, Sarah,” said Martha. Sarah smiled at Joseph. “Hi, Tom,” she said.” (Kindle locations 3815-3818). The quotation only involves the main characters. Joseph is Tom. Tilda is Sarah. All important characters in the story have alternate names. There are five people in the cabal Bedfellows. They have code names, such as The Pound and The Voice. Readers will have to match these to their real identities as they wind their way to their fates, many of which involve death. Who are the good guys? Who is doing the killing? Killers seem to come from outside MI6, the CIA, and Bedfellows.
There are many instances of profound philosophizing that drag the action down. Here is a sample of fuzzy thought that is repeated in several places. Tom is sometimes expressing himself to others and sometimes it is an internal dialogue within himself. I found it repetitious. This is in response to Joseph asking Cyril if Cyril thinks he (Cyril) is a bad person. Cyril says “no,” then Joseph responds with “People don’t. Even those that think they do, in reality they don’t. Everyone justifies what they do because they think they have good reason. Everyone thinks they stand firmly on the side of the righteous, but the truth is, there is no side labelled righteous; there is only what we choose to do and the consequences of those choices.” (Kindle Locations 2695-2697). A reader might think the characters are examining assassin angst over the necessity to kill without question. Not true. They are commenting on the Greek economic debt crisis.
However, the above hints at a one-line summation of the philosophy of the book. I would lose a friendship if someone said this to me in a social setting. “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” (Kindle locations 3895-3896). Again, this is repeated in slightly different guises throughout the story.
Following a model of repetition: I am a Paul Casselle fan. I will read more of his work because I like the way he embeds a lot of his situations in humor. I didn’t quote any of those instances because they would not survive out of context. I gave this five Amazon stars for the variety of plots, subplots, and the author’s writing style.