The Handyman

A Novel

Fiction - Suspense
280 Pages
Reviewed on 05/07/2024
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I studied creative writing at the University of Washington and law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. I’ve published essays in the Seattle Weekly (“Irish Bulls,” 1993) and Bird Watcher’s Digest (“The Misunderstood Coot,” 1998). My article “Vibrant Vancouver!” (ParentMap, 2006) won a silver medal from Parenting Publications of America.

Prior to entering law school, I was a staff writer and communications director at the University of California, Davis. While studying and practicing law, I focused my writing on environmental topics. I retired in 2020 to return to full-time writing. When I’m not working on my own projects, I write web content for Red Ventures.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

In The Handyman, a psychological thriller by Maura K. Deering, in the early 1980s, Brenna Riley had a passionate one-night stand with her teammate on the college rowing team, Dennis Griffin. After graduating from college, Brenna married another college friend, Peter Anderson. However, a heinous assault by Dennis turns her life upside down, and when she becomes pregnant, she isn't sure who the father of the child is. Dennis further integrates himself into Brenna's life as the caretaker of her family home in Tahoe while being abusive to his wife, Deidre, and her young son, Denny. After Peter drowns under suspicious circumstances, Brenna becomes a chronic alcoholic, failing to nullify Dennis' influence on her daughter, Sadie. With Sadie and Denny all grown up, can Brenna finally remove Dennis from her life?

Using a perfect blend of mystery, suspense, and drama, Maura K. Deering spins an absorbing yarn that keeps surprising you at regular intervals. The Handyman never lets your attention waver for a moment as you find yourself hooked on a narrative laced with tension and intrigue from the first page to the last. You never see the twists and turns coming, and there are a couple of big reveals that will shock even the most ardent thriller fan. Deering's character work is exceptional. These characters have flaws and vulnerabilities that make them feel like real people. Dennis is a sociopath, but even he has moments that show his more humane side. If you love stories with suspense that feature a charismatic villain, this will be right up your alley.

Gaius Konstantine

Some people should never be allowed to reproduce, and The Handyman by Maura K. Deering offers multiple examples of why. The story revolves around two young individuals named Dennis and Brenna. Dennis is a browbeaten teen whose father is a successful lawyer and an utter failure as a human being, running his household like a concentration camp. Brenna is a daddy's girl with a mother who struggles to connect with her. Despite their many differences, Dennis and Brenna share an attraction for one another. But like twin suns in a binary system, getting too close could mean disaster. Dennis becomes obsessed with Brenna, and she feels drawn to him even though she knows she should stay away. As this borderline sociopath and whiny neurotic attempt to live their lives without further complications, a tragedy of errors unfolds. Their lives intersect many times throughout the years, leading to outcomes from stupidly comical to downright deadly.

The Handyman by Maura K. Deering is not just a suspenseful book but a low-key yet powerful psychological thriller that can serve as a lesson on what not to do in life. The main plot revolves around obsession, but multiple themes are interwoven into the narrative. The novel offers a glimpse of life with all its wonder and tragic moments. The characters are flawed but realistic, and at times, I empathized with them, while at others, I wished I could throttle them in person. What stands out in this book is the storytelling itself, and Maura's talent for misdirection leads to a wildly unpredictable tale full of surprises. Overall, The Handyman is an authentic, immersive, and believable story that will delight and fascinate fans of multiple genres.

Carmen Tenorio

The Handyman by Maura K. Deering is about the dangerous lifelong obsession of a rejected suitor over a college fling he had with a sports teammate. Seeing Dennis again was a nightmare for Brenna. He had been a one-night stand during their university days when they were members of the rowing team and nothing more. She gets depressed just thinking if her daughter Sadie was possibly a result of being sexually assaulted by him shortly after her marriage to Peter. Why of all the people on earth would he be the one hired by her dad as the caretaker for their Lake Tahoe property? Was this a deliberate move by Dennis so that he could be near her and continue with his obsession? The novel is divided into three major periods, each of which shows how the obsessed stalker worms himself into Brenna’s private space and pursues her with his behavior and unwanted, persistent, and fixated presence amidst the struggles and changes in both of their life statuses and situations.

The Handyman by Maura K. Deering is a fast-paced story that hooks the reader. The author is spot on with Brenna’s character as a victim of rape and a stressed-out, self-doubting working parent and Dennis as a creepy, delusional narcissist with borderline personality disorder. The characters' traits, reactions, and introspections are based on the flaws revealed in the back stories and experiences that influenced and shaped them. Expect themes of obsession, abuse, addiction, loss, stalking, manipulation, assault, and gaslighting. More positive elements of love, loyalty, forgiveness, resilience, hope, determination, and decisiveness balance out the heavier and darker themes. The novel is a subdued thriller with a lot of suspense and incidents that generate a feeling of paranoia. Its clever plot twists and some tension-filled scenes and events keep readers on the edge of their seats. It promises a disturbing ending that will haunt the reader long after finishing the book. Highly recommended for fans of psychological thrillers with complex characters immersed in an atmosphere of uneasiness, secrecy, and intrigue.