Cover image for The mentor
The mentor
Stuart, Sebastian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
243 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this twisting and unpredictable psychological thriller, a famous writer desperate to save his career brings a stranger into his life--with terrifying results. Twenty-five years ago, Charles Davis's first novel made him a literary legend. But his recent work has not matched its power or its popularity. With his latest novel savaged by reviewers, Charles is paralyzed by self-doubt--until fate hands him an unexpected muse. Emma Bowles is the young assistant Charles's wife, Anne, hires to bring order to his pressured existence. Where Anne Turner is sleek and elegant, a daring and driven entrepreneur, young Emma is awkward and self-effacing. But Charles is the first to glimpse the intriguing mysteries beneath her small-town demeanor. Charles becomes obsessed with Emma, with understanding her, controlling her. But is she prey--or predator? By the time Anne realizes she wants this disturbing young woman out of their lives, it's too late. All three are trapped in their own deceptions, and only a savage, shocking act can free them. Set against the glamorous backdrop of Manhattan's society and media elite, The Mentor is a brilliantly self-assured debut, full of surprises and reversals worthy of Hitchcock. This is a thriller as lethally sharp as the ruthless ambitions--and dark demons--that drive its cast of characters.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Novelist Charles Davis scored a smash hit with his first novel. But that was a quarter-century ago, and since then things haven't been going so well. Reviews have been bad, money's tight, and Davis is staring a big, fat writer's slump in the face. Then his wife hires him an assistant, the beautiful and rather odd Emma, and, when he discovers that the girl's a budding writer, Davis sees a chance to get his name on another best-seller. Fans of such established thriller writers as William Goldman or Ira Levin will recognize in Stuart's first novel the subtly eerie atmosphere, the characters with dark shadows flickering in their eyes, the sense of something about to happen. But this is no imitation of other writers' books. It's fresh, stylish, full of interesting details about the publishing business, and boasts a neat little twist at the end. A tight and tidy thriller that will make readers look forward to Stuart's next offering. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Containing traces of The Babysitter, Gaslight, All About Eve and Deathtrap, Stuart's debut psychological thriller creates a wholly original, believable drama out of an archetypal love triangle involving a broken-down literary "genius," his mentally unstable but devoted prot‚g‚ and his icy wife. Novelist Charles Davis was once New York's literary wunderkind, but that was more than two decades ago. Now 49 and bruised from a series of flops, he is sure his newest novel will be a hit: "Through some confluence of good fortune, DeLillo, Banks and Ford are all absent from this fall's list. There's room for him at the top. Again, after all these years." His wife, Anne Turner, is 13 years younger, a marketing hotshot and media celeb, head of an upscale housewares catalogue. One of Manhattan's most glamorous couples, they hit the skids in public when Charles's book is viciously panned in the New York Times Book Review, and he sinks into depression. Anne hires mousy but efficient temp secretary Emma Bowles to restore order to Charles's disheveled office. But Emma is a seriously troubled young woman who calls herself the "BadGirlSickGirl," and is running from a horrifying past. The story picks up speed while lingering exquisitely on eerie plot twists as Charles seduces Emma, and Anne's suspicions heighten. Discovering that Emma is writing her own novel, creatively blocked Charles "helps" her, while endeavoring to steal it, but he must make sure that his quickly disintegrating muse/workhorse will stay sane enough to keep writing. Meanwhile, Anne is pregnant, but Charles probably isn't the father, and Charles's own beloved mentor, his most trusted friend, is the only person who senses, and threatens to spoil, Charles's plagiarist scheme. The unraveling of the plot is ultra-stylish, equal parts ghoulish and cavalier; in Stuart's sharply observed Manhattan, an air of bemused morbidity festers amid the swanky circles of publishing and publicity, and the ambitious souls of the three main characters are creepily, masterfully authentic. BOMC alternate selection; rights sold in the U.K. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his first novel, Stuart moves a familiar, suspenseful plot to a surprising conclusion. Charles and Anne Davis seem to have the perfect life together. Charles is a renowned author whose first book made him a literary legend, and Anne runs a successful, upscale catalog company. Unfortunately, Charles has not been able to repeat the commercial and critical success he achieved with his first book 25 years before. In fact, his most recent effort has received savage reviews, and he is lashing out at Anne. Even though she is dealing with stress in her own work, Anne wants to help Charles. Enter Emma Bowles, the awkward young woman Anne hires to be his assistant. Charles becomes fascinated and then obsessed with Emma. Each step in Stuart's set-up is carefully written, so that the reader seems sure to know where the book will end. But Stuart successfully turns the tale on its head, creating complex relationships along the way. Recommended for larger public libraries.ÄJane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



New York is Emma's obsession. And so when she gets off work she decides to walk back to the YMCA on West Twenty-third Street where, since her arrival in the city a month earlier, she's been living in a dingy little room that smells faintly of mildew. She walks across Fifty-fourth Street to Seventh Avenue and turns south--up ahead she can see Times Square's neon bazaar beckoning like a fun house barker. It's a warm, cloudy evening; the sky is low and a darkening gray; the humid air seems to leach the smells out of the city: food, humanity, concrete, a heady, seductive brew laced with a trace of the sea. Emma thought she knew everything about New York, but the smells surprise and tantalize her. She's read everyone from Edith Wharton to Tom Wolfe, and weekly visits to her local library to pore over the latest issues of the New York Times and the New Yorker were one of her childhood's few comforting rituals. Finding a copy of the Post was a special pleasure--its lurid stories of crime, depravity, and glamour made her yearn for the city. In addition to the abstract expressionists, the Actors Studio, Warhol and the Factory, she knows all about Son of Sam and Kitty Genovese, sex clubs and Hedda Nussbaum. Emma has spent much of the last month walking, just walking from one end of town to the other until she reaches the point of sensory overload and straggles back to her room to collapse on the narrow, lumpy bed. The sounds, the lights, the people, the motion--she finds the cacophony both soothing and thrilling. It's the anonymity that comforts her most, the sense that she can move about unnoticed, released at last from the scrutiny of evil minds. Sick evil minds. She's free: her destiny might be waiting just up ahead, around the next corner. It's getting dark out, a darkness that seems to enclose the city. The lights from the stores bathe Broadway in a warm glow. People stroll along, laughing and relaxed. Emma passes a hotel tower that looks as if it's been airlifted in from Las Vegas. Snazzy and brazen, it's fronted by a circular glass-walled lounge the size of a bus depot that's filled with tourists enjoying their first drink of the evening. With a touch of smugness Emma realizes that she isn't a tourist. She lives here. She has a job. And it isn't some boring automaton job in some fluorescent-lit office, but a job working for a famous businesswoman--Anne Turner--in an office that hums with creativity. Ha-ha! Fuck all those pieces of shit back in Munsonville. And her good fortune is no accident. No way. Emma researched the city's best employment agencies. She took a computer course at Allegheny Junior College. Knowing she would need a reference, she worked diligently all summer at that insurance agency. She prepared herself. And when the job at Home--Anne Turner's chic catalog--came along, she grabbed it, and now she stays late every night, poking around the office, taking care of tiny details, organizing computer files. Even though the job is officially only temporary, it may well pay off. One thing leads to another. Now Emma can take the money she saved over the summer and start to hunt for an apartment, a real apartment. She looks around her at the teeming avenue and feels as if she's where she belongs, in this city where she has no past. Where nobody knows. "Hello!" Emma turns. A woman wearing a dark business suit takes her wrist. Emma tries to pull away but the woman holds fast. "I know you," the woman says, tilting her head and examining Emma with huge brown eyes. Emma notices the suit has a food stain on it and the collar is frayed. The woman leans in and Emma smells something foul--a mix of sour whiskey, ancient sweat, and madness. Emma knows that smell. She shudders and tries to pull away. The woman tightens her grip. Emma looks around wildly. No one is paying any attention; people are walking, walking so quickly. Are they trying to get away? "I know you. Don't pretend you don't know me." "Let go, please." "Why should I? I know you." The woman twists Emma's wrist and all the people stream by and the woman's mouth is open and she flicks her tongue like a lizard and Emma takes a step backward and the woman twists her wrist harder and just keeps coming at her. Then Emma shoves her, hard, just shoves that filthy, horrible woman back, hard, and it's the last thing the woman is expecting and her mouth flies open in shock and she lets go of Emma's wrist and loses her balance and falls down on the sidewalk. She starts to say something--something vile and inhuman and evil--and Emma takes a step toward her and the woman shuts up, but she lifts her chin and smooths her filthy hair as if she's Jackie fucking Onassis and Emma is beneath her station. Emma wants to bring her foot up under that filthy chin and kick that jaw shut and teach that woman to go around grabbing people who're minding their own business. She wants to hurt her. Emma is frightened by what she wants. She mumbles "I'm sorry" and rushes away--and the memory comes back, the memory always comes back. BadGirlSickGirl. As Emma hurries down the street, away from the memory, she feels the sidewalk drop out from beneath her, she feels the city suddenly grow flat, she feels the rage and hopelessness that dwell--covered, caged, denied--at the core of her being. She only wants to go back, back to her room. Emma sits by the grimy window in the grimy room, looking out at the air shaft. All her lights are out and she can see into other rooms across the way. They're all empty. Emma hates herself for pushing that woman. She lost her cool--she can't lose her cool, not here, not in New York. This is her new life. It's going to work out for her here. It has to, it has to. BadGirlSickGirl. Emma holds out her arm and looks at the expanse of pale flesh. She opens her secret box, the tiny tin box painted with flowers long faded. Inside is the worn red velvet she loves so much. She lifts the velvet and there it is--her friend. She runs her fingertip over the smooth metal of the single-edge razor blade. So cool and soothing. There's a loud knock on her door. Emma freezes. "Jo-ey!" a drunken voice calls. Emma sits absolutely still. "Open up, ya dumb fuck!" The drunk rattles the door handle. He slams his palm against the door and mutters, "Asshole." Emma listens as the footfalls retreat. She switches on the light. She isn't going to end up like that, lurching down hallways in depressing old rooming houses. Fuck that shit. She picks up her box and for a moment considers throwing it out the window. She folds the red velvet over the razor blade and puts the box in her top drawer. Then she sits down at the small desk and gets to work. Excerpted from The Mentor: A Novel by Sebastian Stuart All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.