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Likely Stories - The Nothing Man

Hi, and welcome to Likely Stories. I’m Paige Connell, and I teach 9th grade English at Midway High School. Today I want to discuss The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard, a book my friend at Fabled, Elizabeth Barnhill, first pointed me toward.

Irish crime fiction is a very specific niche, but Howard does it very well. This psychological thriller is expertly paced and with a reveal in the 3rd act that will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished it.

Years ago, 12-year-old Eve Black became the sole-and final-survivor of The Nothing Man’s serial killing spree. He had killed many people before in her Irish neighborhood over the span of several years, but his last crime was the night he murdered her parents and younger sister. Eve was spared because she’d woken up to go to the bathroom and was missed in his rampage. Now as an adult, as a therapeutic step, Eve writes a book about the Nothing Man, painstakingly researching him and his crimes and relaying each of them in print.

When Jim Doyle picks up a copy of her book, he becomes increasingly angry reading it since Eve got some of the details wrong, and he knows because he IS The Nothing Man and has been keeping his actions and identity a secret for more than 20 years. Working as a security guard, Jim begins to feel the noose tighten as he reads Eve’s words, but he also feels his hubris take over as he follows her to various writer’s events in the area.

The book alternates between Jim’s narration in present day and actual chapter’s of Eve’s book in the past of The Nothing Man’s crimes, so we piece together all the parts of the story in layers. We learn about Eve as a child and an adult, and we learn about Jim’s previous crimes, the night he killed Eve’s family, and what he has been doing since. It’s a very interesting cat-and-mouse game—Jim knows who Eve is, but she doesn’t know his true identity.

Eve wants justice for her family and the other victims, and Jim would love nothing more than to become the Nothing Man once again and silence the victim who got away. As they circle each other, you truly don’t know what will happen next and how it will affect everyone.

This book was a very compelling read—methodical, interesting, dark. If you like Netflix crime documentaries, reading Irish fiction like Strange Sally Diamond or dark stories from Alice Feeny, this is a great extension of those interests. This would be a great choice for a book club or a group of friends to read because you’ll have a lot to discuss once you’ve finished it.

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Paige Connell has been a Wacoan since 2002 when she attended Baylor University, fell in love with the city, and never left. She works at Midway High School and has been teaching English since 2009. Paige’s passion is reading: she regularly reads 120 books or more each year and loves to share her thoughts on Goodreads and social media. Additionally, Paige co-authored the children’s book Goodnight Waco on behalf of the Junior League of Waco in 2021. When she’s not reading or listening to a book, you can find her nursing a mug of tea, analyzing Taylor Swift lyrics for figurative language elements, or spending time with her family—her husband Chance, her daughter Cara, and her Corgi mutt Remy.