Recommended: Temper by Layne Fargo

There comes a moment in the last quarter of Temper (or earlier if you’re better at this game than I am) when you realize how the story must end.

When I got there, I smiled, said “holy s__t” and made sure I had enough time to finish author Layne Fargo’s amazing, raw, borderline psychologically damaging debut thriller.

I love to read stories that take me into new subcultures, which really intrigued me. Fargo has a background in Chicago theater, and Temper brought me deep into that world without me knowing I was on the journey.

Then there are the characters.

Oh. My. God.

Layne Fargo

We’re first introduced to Kira Rascher, an actress who auditions for and lands a part in a two-actor Chicago play opposite the production company’s charismatic, overbearing actor/creative director, Malcolm Mercer.

The story’s POV alternates between Kira and Joanna Cuyler, Malcolm’s right-hand at their theater company who has a complicated history with her longtime nonsexual partner.

Another of my favorites is when authors use a story-within-a-story. In this case, it’s the play Kira and Malcolm are acting in, which is titled—you guessed it—Temper. I’ll stop short of giving away spoilers, but I will say these simultaneous stories are woven together beautifully and seamlessly.

But beyond all of that, my favorite part of the novel was getting into the minds of Kira and Joanna. It was so wonderfully unnerving. (As a side note, I also love Fargo’s choice NOT to use Malcolm’s point of view. You will, too, when you read it.)

I wish this were the first in a series so I could spend more time with those two characters. But the end of Temper is so satisfying that this piece of incredible psychological suspense easily stands on its own.

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