THE THREE-DAY AFFAIR begins with one of the best opening lines you will read this year and ends with a revelation (in a book full of them) that you will never see coming. In between, you will find a story that dips, swirls and turns upside down in peculiar and unpredictable ways, featuring a group of characters you will know from your own life before you meet them in theirs.
The book is told from the viewpoint of Will, a musician turned music producer who has left the noise of New York and resides in the relative quiet of New Jersey with his pregnant wife. The story begins on the eve of an annual golf and party reunion of Will and three of his friends. Jeffrey is a successful dot-com entrepreneur; Evan is a partner in a prominent law firm, and Nolan is a career politician. All four are graduates of Princeton. Though the reader wonders what happened to Will’s career trajectory, it’s revealed in short order --- and, as it soon becomes evident, he is probably the happiest of the quartet.
"The situation that Kardos creates keeps you reading and the pages turning until the end, when two major revelations occur: you’ll see one coming, but you’ll never guess the other."
However, this year’s reunion seems to be off-track from the start, beginning with Evan being delayed. The remaining trio, following dinner and some golf, stop at a convenience store. Jeffrey goes in to buy some antacid tablets but exits with the clerk --- a teenage girl --- in tow. He pulls her into the car and orders Will to drive away. The three suddenly become kidnappers, although at least two of them have no idea why, where or how, only automatically acting to help a friend who is not behaving rationally. What follows is a nightmarish three days, one in which revelations, betrayals and secrets --- though not all of them --- are laid bare. Nothing is as it seems; and by the time this reunion is over, nothing will be the same again. There will be at least one secret that two of the friends will keep forever.
Kardos is one heck of a storyteller. There are two plot points that threatened to capsize THE THREE-DAY AFFAIR for me, yet Kardos’ narrative strengths are such that the story just sails right over them. One concerns a physical injury that ultimately seems to have only a minimal and short-term effect; the other concerns a legal issue that arises, upon which hinges a turning point in the story. I won’t go into detail on either --- you’ll find out when you read the book, but they don’t quite pass the smell test. In the end, though, I barely cared. The situation that Kardos creates keeps you reading and the pages turning until the end, when two major revelations occur: you’ll see one coming, but you’ll never guess the other.
While THE THREE-DAY AFFAIR is Kardos’ first novel, he is also the author of ONE LAST GOOD TIME, a critically acclaimed collection of short stories that you will want to seek out as well. Both will acquaint you with a major new talent and have you anticipating his next novel.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 2, 2012