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A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoatis a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father's death N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is viole A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoatis a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father's death N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is violently disrupted by the death of his estranged father--unanticipated and, as it increasingly seems to N, surrounded by murky circumstances. His investigation leads him to a hotel built over a former Spanish mission, a site with a dark power and secrets all its own. On campus, a chance meeting with a young doctor provokes uncomfortable feelings on the direction of his life, and N begins to have vivid, almost hallucinatory daydreams about the year he spent in Ottawa, and a shameful episode from his past. Meanwhile, a shadowy group of fringe academics surfaces in relation to his father's death. Their preoccupation with a grim chapter in California's history runs like a surreal parallel to the staid world of academic life, where N's relations with his colleagues grow more and more hostile. As he comes closer to the heart of the mystery, his ability to distinguish between delusion and reality begins to erode, and he is forced to confront disturbing truths about himself: his irrational antagonism toward a young female graduate student, certain libidinal impulses, and a capacity for violence. Is he the author of his own investigation? Or is he the unwitting puppet of a larger conspiracy? With this inventive, devilish debut, saturated with unexpected wit and romanticism, Sara Davis probes the borders between reality and delusion, intimacy and solitude, revenge and justice. The Scapegoat exposes the surreal lingering behind the mundane, the forgotten history underfoot, and the insanity just around the corner.


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A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoatis a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father's death N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is viole A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoatis a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father's death N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is violently disrupted by the death of his estranged father--unanticipated and, as it increasingly seems to N, surrounded by murky circumstances. His investigation leads him to a hotel built over a former Spanish mission, a site with a dark power and secrets all its own. On campus, a chance meeting with a young doctor provokes uncomfortable feelings on the direction of his life, and N begins to have vivid, almost hallucinatory daydreams about the year he spent in Ottawa, and a shameful episode from his past. Meanwhile, a shadowy group of fringe academics surfaces in relation to his father's death. Their preoccupation with a grim chapter in California's history runs like a surreal parallel to the staid world of academic life, where N's relations with his colleagues grow more and more hostile. As he comes closer to the heart of the mystery, his ability to distinguish between delusion and reality begins to erode, and he is forced to confront disturbing truths about himself: his irrational antagonism toward a young female graduate student, certain libidinal impulses, and a capacity for violence. Is he the author of his own investigation? Or is he the unwitting puppet of a larger conspiracy? With this inventive, devilish debut, saturated with unexpected wit and romanticism, Sara Davis probes the borders between reality and delusion, intimacy and solitude, revenge and justice. The Scapegoat exposes the surreal lingering behind the mundane, the forgotten history underfoot, and the insanity just around the corner.

30 review for The Scapegoat

  1. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    The Scapegoat is a unique and upending reading experience. Every sentence on its own seems to exist nearly in the world of the rational, at least enough for me to keep reading with my guard down, and to keep thinking 'well, that's a little weird, but understandable...' and then before very long I realize that the story has steered me into completely unknown territory where anything can happen, and where I as a reader am sharing the paranoia and the distress of the protagonist. I've sunk into his The Scapegoat is a unique and upending reading experience. Every sentence on its own seems to exist nearly in the world of the rational, at least enough for me to keep reading with my guard down, and to keep thinking 'well, that's a little weird, but understandable...' and then before very long I realize that the story has steered me into completely unknown territory where anything can happen, and where I as a reader am sharing the paranoia and the distress of the protagonist. I've sunk into his way of looking at the world. I'm unable to see my way forward in the story or to predict what will happen next. For a while even after I was done reading the novel, my world still looked a little odd to me, and a little threatening. The unease lingered. There is a level of particularity of detail in the language of the novel that mimics normal life and then subtly distorts it into something monstrous and chaotic and threatening...or maybe, it lets you see just how odd the world is to begin with. It's absolutely a one-of-a-kind reading experience. And now I’m editing my review because I forgot at first to say there is a unique humor I enjoyed a lot for the way it weaves in and out in the same way as the paranoia...always catching me off guard. Like that the hospital puts on a free concert of Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder.” These underemphasized ‘nothing to see here’ jokes come rollicking along without warning. I loved it. Thanks to FSG for the opportunity to listen to the audiobook--the narrator was perfect for the character. I've bought the book since, because I want the opportunity to read it at my own pace and to learn more about just how this novel works. Wonderful.

  2. 4 out of 5

    eindra lin

    ok, this fucked me up. i have been fucked the fuck up. i've never thought so hard about a book after finishing it. i, as i always do, read this right before going to bed and it plagued my dreams. over and over again i asked myself, what...really...happened...? where was the 'beginning'? who's investigation is this? who is being investigated? who is the real victim?? what...?? happened...???? i've never read a mystery story quite like this, and i've never had one affect me quite like this. i wish ok, this fucked me up. i have been fucked the fuck up. i've never thought so hard about a book after finishing it. i, as i always do, read this right before going to bed and it plagued my dreams. over and over again i asked myself, what...really...happened...? where was the 'beginning'? who's investigation is this? who is being investigated? who is the real victim?? what...?? happened...???? i've never read a mystery story quite like this, and i've never had one affect me quite like this. i wish i could tell you a brief overview of the novel but frankly, i'm not even sure myself. davis's storytelling, or the story's "siuzhet" (shoutout to my russian lit class), is absolutely phenomenal and engaging, cyclical and hazy, and very very meta. from the beginning, we understand that the narrator is not the most reliable, but as the story progresses, we are pulled more and more into the instability and unreliablity of the narrator. we are sucked into his reality that may or may not be reality, and his dreams that may or may not be dreams. by the end, we are not sure at all what really happened, what was delusion, who did what to who and when. so delightfully confusing. there are meta storylines WITHIN the meta storyline itself, with the subplot of N's mystery novel, and the academics set on exposing california's destructive and exploitative history. there is a perfect amount of dread and unease, the perfect amount of gloom in the sunny san franscico setting. this story really reminded me of Dance Dance Dance by murakami, with the passive and slightly unreliable narrator, the haunted hotels, the jumbling of dreams and reality, the underlying atmosphere of trepidation and disquiet. except the narrator in the scapegoat is far less reliable and far more dangerous, and creates far more unease in the readers. murakami on lsd. i would like to request from the author a linear timeline of the events as they happened in present time because. because this shit got me fucked up. i will be thinking about this book for a long time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    The Scapegoat is an intriguing, dreamlike mystery. The narrator is clearly unreliable and you can’t trust anything he says. It’s up to you to put the pieces together to figure out what’s really happening. And what a surreal journey it is. The narrator is rather pathetic but that could be due to childhood neglect. He is a rather passive character, yet he is also lonely and I would argue, unhappy. I did love the scenes of him reading his Scandinavian mystery though. Very funny. Overall, I highly r The Scapegoat is an intriguing, dreamlike mystery. The narrator is clearly unreliable and you can’t trust anything he says. It’s up to you to put the pieces together to figure out what’s really happening. And what a surreal journey it is. The narrator is rather pathetic but that could be due to childhood neglect. He is a rather passive character, yet he is also lonely and I would argue, unhappy. I did love the scenes of him reading his Scandinavian mystery though. Very funny. Overall, I highly recommend this trippy, illusive mystery. This is one book you need to pay attention to when reading. Sara Davis is a fantastic writer and I really enjoyed her debut.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chantel

    The Scapegoat follows the unreliable narration & actions of N, an employee at a Northern California medical school. N's father has recently passed away & we follow him as he endeavours his own sort of investigation of his father's passing & of events which transpired/that he experienced before his death. I read this in audiobook format & have to admit to finding it difficult to get through. N often experiences delusions or dreams which blur his ability to filter & process actual events. The read The Scapegoat follows the unreliable narration & actions of N, an employee at a Northern California medical school. N's father has recently passed away & we follow him as he endeavours his own sort of investigation of his father's passing & of events which transpired/that he experienced before his death. I read this in audiobook format & have to admit to finding it difficult to get through. N often experiences delusions or dreams which blur his ability to filter & process actual events. The reader might very soon deduce that N struggles with the reality of his father's passing, keeping track of time & partaking in social encounters. Though the story was one which intrigued me, I felt it became a larger undertaking than I had desired to make my way through the story & keep pace with what was happening. Had I read the book myself rather than having it read to me, perhaps, I might feel differently about the story. However, this was not the case & I was left feeling a little annoyed by the end of the book. Thank you to NetGalley, Dreamscape Media, & Sara Davis for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! #TheScapegoat #NetGalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    I’m not sure what to make of this one! The Scapegoat by Sara Davis is a fast-paced, short, surreal mystery with an unreliable narrator. It is compulsively readable with short chapters, so I got through this one quickly. The narrator is investigating his father’s death, which keeps leading him to a strange hotel with a dark history and the University hospital where he works and his father previously worked. The narrator keeps finding clues which propel him back to the mysterious hotel again and a I’m not sure what to make of this one! The Scapegoat by Sara Davis is a fast-paced, short, surreal mystery with an unreliable narrator. It is compulsively readable with short chapters, so I got through this one quickly. The narrator is investigating his father’s death, which keeps leading him to a strange hotel with a dark history and the University hospital where he works and his father previously worked. The narrator keeps finding clues which propel him back to the mysterious hotel again and again. Things keep changing and the narrator loses time, so it’s hard to know what’s really going on. It reminded me a little of The Night Film by Marisha Pessl. The story was very unsettling and strange, but very interesting. Thank you Farrar, Straus, and Giroux and NetGalley for providing this ARC.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    What a strange little gem this debut mystery is! “The Scapegoat”, by Sara Davis, intrigued me from the beginning; it becomes almost immediately clear that the reader needs to “just go with it”, as with an episode of “Black Mirror” or “Twilight Zone”; don’t expect a straightforward mystery. The first person narrator, only once referred to as “N”, is recounting the details of an investigation into his father’s death which he conducted in the recent past. We are not told why. Soon we realize that th What a strange little gem this debut mystery is! “The Scapegoat”, by Sara Davis, intrigued me from the beginning; it becomes almost immediately clear that the reader needs to “just go with it”, as with an episode of “Black Mirror” or “Twilight Zone”; don’t expect a straightforward mystery. The first person narrator, only once referred to as “N”, is recounting the details of an investigation into his father’s death which he conducted in the recent past. We are not told why. Soon we realize that the narrator is unreliable; impossible coincidences pile up, weird things happen (or do they?) and we start to doubt our own reliability as readers, as well. Again: just go with it. The novel is set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this unique narrator is employed at a university there. He is a curmudgeonly loaner and both a devote and critic of the Swedish detective series featuring Kurt Wallander (it gets a little “meta” here). An Old Mission Hotel features as almost another character, and inexplicable things happen there. Through his mostly dispassionate perceptions and meticulous recollection, we begin to learn more about who he is, who his father was, and the nature of their relationship. This spare, psychological/surreal mystery is deliciously atmospheric; I couldn’t help thinking of Hitchcock’s masterpiece, “Vertigo”. Davis un-spools the story quickly, which also keeps the reader engaged if a bit pleasantly confused, dare I say “vertiginous”? But throughout I was willing to accept uncertainty to see what would happen next!

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for this early ebook. This is a twisty, surreal mystery that keeps changing with each chapter. Narrated by a somewhat unreliable lead character who has a menial job at a college in California that was given to him by his father, who used to be one of the deans there. N, as the narrator is identified as, is now trying to figure out how his father has died and starts trying to put together a group of very, seemingly, non related clues. But are they clues? N seems to thi Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for this early ebook. This is a twisty, surreal mystery that keeps changing with each chapter. Narrated by a somewhat unreliable lead character who has a menial job at a college in California that was given to him by his father, who used to be one of the deans there. N, as the narrator is identified as, is now trying to figure out how his father has died and starts trying to put together a group of very, seemingly, non related clues. But are they clues? N seems to think that everyone and everything he meets is leading him one step closer to the truth, but that truth seems to shift from hour to hour, as he haunts a local hotel that’s very place of construction is a crime to some locals, as he reads his Scandinavian mystery novel and as he gets drawn deeper into his dreams. It’s a fun and potent book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    THE SCAPEGOAT is a sure-footed debut novel from Sara Davis, who has well-established bona fides as an instructor in creative writing. She has chosen to introduce herself to the reading public with a haunting and challenging work that presents a new aspect of the “unreliable narrator” theme while propelling the reader through a series of mystifying vignettes, all without sacrificing the literary quality of the story. It is a tale that is not soon forgotten. N is the book’s first-person, past-tense THE SCAPEGOAT is a sure-footed debut novel from Sara Davis, who has well-established bona fides as an instructor in creative writing. She has chosen to introduce herself to the reading public with a haunting and challenging work that presents a new aspect of the “unreliable narrator” theme while propelling the reader through a series of mystifying vignettes, all without sacrificing the literary quality of the story. It is a tale that is not soon forgotten. N is the book’s first-person, past-tense narrator. Whatever his other faults, he is not entirely lacking insight, however warped his view may be. As we come to learn, N was in the employ of the medical school of a San Francisco Bay-area university with an affiliated hospital. It takes some time for him to fully explain his function there, or how he came to be where he was at that particular stage of his life. What we do discover is that N’s father died under circumstances that he believed were suspicious, and he felt compelled to investigate what happened on his own. Because they were estranged, N began his investigation being somewhat backfooted. He did uncover a slim clue in the form of a cryptic note located in the pocket of his father’s abandoned coat. It was written on stationery from a local hotel in the area. Shortly after finding the note, N was given the opportunity to visit the hotel as the indirect result of being invited to a faculty dinner in honor of a visiting lecturer. Such an invitation was unusual, considering that he was hardly a social animal and had established himself as being aloof and enigmatic. The dinner results in an introduction that led to access to a mysterious object, which shows up in various forms throughout the narrative and that N concluded had something to do with his father’s death. A briefcase that he was certain also belonged to his father disappears and reappears as he relates what has occurred. Meanwhile, there is a series of vignettes along the way that reveals N’s past and present in fits and starts, including his relationship with Kirstie, a colleague he keeps running into who perhaps had some interest in him. For the most part, he appeared to be either unaware or uninterested. The truth, to the extent that it can be determined, is gradually brought to light in a surprising and shocking denouement before the story’s abrupt end. THE SCAPEGOAT is not a long novel --- just slightly over 200 pages --- but it is a deep and disturbing one. Davis’ prose is not necessarily economical, but there is no wasted space. That said, the book’s substance and its eccentric protagonist put me in the mind of a collaborative effort between Edgar Allan Poe and Doris Lessing. I am looking forward to more much from Davis in the future. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    The book is narrated by “N,” a “secretary” at a Northern California medical school who is conducting his own investigation into his father’s passing. Through his actions and inner monologue, the reader can deduce that N is often confused about his father’s death, loses track of time, and enters into dream-like states where he then meshes the people and conversations from the dreams with reality. He is a bit of a loaner with an anti-social personality, so the reader doesn’t glimpse any “outside l The book is narrated by “N,” a “secretary” at a Northern California medical school who is conducting his own investigation into his father’s passing. Through his actions and inner monologue, the reader can deduce that N is often confused about his father’s death, loses track of time, and enters into dream-like states where he then meshes the people and conversations from the dreams with reality. He is a bit of a loaner with an anti-social personality, so the reader doesn’t glimpse any “outside looking in” perspectives -- the story seems to be entirely N’s point of view. At points, N appears to collect credible clues that take him to a hotel his father visited. He discovers his father’s briefcase and alternate identity -- with this, I believe he was gaining momentum toward closure surrounding his father’s death or disappearance; apparently, I missed something because I closed the book just as confused as N - I didn’t get any closure. I replayed multiple sections of the book to gain a better understanding of what was going on. I double-checked my notes on the clues and N’s thought processes; however, at about two-thirds in, I gave up and just finished the novel as a frustrated reader. At this point, I’ll have to research to find *spoiler* reviews and/or wait until my reading group discusses it in hopes of getting some insight as to what really happened and make sense of some of the scenes and interactions N has with either real or imagined characters. As mentioned, this was an audiobook; I’m not sure if this form factor affected my ability to comprehend this style of storytelling, but at this point, I don’t think I want to devote any more time to properly “read” it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Will Giardino

    I’d like to reiterate what others have written in their Reviews about how our internal attempts to unravel “what the Real storyline was” will surely be lingering for quite some time. Seeping into our thoughts during those mundane moments of everyday life - brewing a pot of coffee, organizing endless paperwork, watching the fog roll in, participating in excruciatingly dry conversations at dinner parties - we’ll still be grappling with our unresolved theories, acting out our own little Swedish det I’d like to reiterate what others have written in their Reviews about how our internal attempts to unravel “what the Real storyline was” will surely be lingering for quite some time. Seeping into our thoughts during those mundane moments of everyday life - brewing a pot of coffee, organizing endless paperwork, watching the fog roll in, participating in excruciatingly dry conversations at dinner parties - we’ll still be grappling with our unresolved theories, acting out our own little Swedish detective stories as we repeatedly question whether there were some dots we simply failed to connect, some single detail we overlooked with disastrous consequences that might explain such a dire unreckoning. Or whether that was the whole point. But what’s been less frequently encountered in these reviews is just how sardonically HILARIOUS the author is in describing N’s world. Take the condescending family friend, who ridicules his daughters’ proclivity for avocados despite her lack of appreciation for good Mexican food, the narrator’s assessment of the empty arboretum as “no one else of any gender in my line of sight”, N’s feigned surprise in disingenuously recounting “what would prove to be another strangely relevant dream..” 😭 As a Stanford biomedical researcher who’s all too familiar with the crushing bureaucratic hierarchies of a university, the sprawling campus layout & geographic surroundings, the superfluous use of formal academic language to communicate basic information, the infinite cups of coffee and lonely open-faced salmon sandwiches 😂.. This book really did it for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Sara Davis gives us a valiant Murakami impression with her debut novel The Scapegoat, complete with our bachelor narrator making spaghetti and brushing his teeth before bed (he also, predictably, listens to classical music). Luckily I love The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle so this particular brand of Murakami rip-off pulled me in, and it wasn’t long before we were off on a surreal noir tale, visiting a mysterious hotel (check), blurring the lines of dreams and real life (check), and bending the limits Sara Davis gives us a valiant Murakami impression with her debut novel The Scapegoat, complete with our bachelor narrator making spaghetti and brushing his teeth before bed (he also, predictably, listens to classical music). Luckily I love The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle so this particular brand of Murakami rip-off pulled me in, and it wasn’t long before we were off on a surreal noir tale, visiting a mysterious hotel (check), blurring the lines of dreams and real life (check), and bending the limits of time and matter (check) as the narrator investigates the death of his father. As the narrator becomes less reliable - as does the line between reality and dream/hallucination - the reader is required to mentally hold on very tight or risk, alongside the narrator, losing the thread. A quick and engrossing read with a wild ending, I’d recommend The Scapegoat for folks who like Murakami, especially those who enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Dance, Dance, Dance, or A Wild Sheep Chase. Thank you to FSG and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this one and provide my honest opinion in this review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle (clownfish_books)

    This is a tricky book to review spoiler-free, it’s smart and mysterious and every step of the way, just when you think you understand where the story is taking you, the rug is ripped out from under you in the best of ways. The tone of the novel immediately pulls the reader into the story. Davis uses a passive voice that creates an air of detachment between the narrator and the events of the story. The reader quickly gets the impression that there is something you don’t know and are trying to dis This is a tricky book to review spoiler-free, it’s smart and mysterious and every step of the way, just when you think you understand where the story is taking you, the rug is ripped out from under you in the best of ways. The tone of the novel immediately pulls the reader into the story. Davis uses a passive voice that creates an air of detachment between the narrator and the events of the story. The reader quickly gets the impression that there is something you don’t know and are trying to discover. Once you finish you’re left wondering what exactly you just read and find yourself thinking back through all the moments of the book to unravel the story. I typically don’t like books that leave you feeling confused, but Sara Davis’s writing is stunning! The twists of the story sneak up on you and leave you completely captivated. The story you think you’re reading isn’t the story you’re actually reading and slowly piecing together clues, even after you’ve finished the book, is what made this book so intriguing and breathtaking.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Margaret Simpson

    I'm still thinking about this one. Is it deliberately ponderous or unusually challenging and I'm being lazy? This book plays with reality and perception much like the films "Vertigo" and "Don't Look Now." There's also a clever hint of the Cohen brothers in a few scenes. I like noir and novels set in San Francisco (good use of the gloomy weather and mission history but I wanted more). One scene I did absolutely love: the protagonist's behavior gets stranger and stranger and he has an eerie conver I'm still thinking about this one. Is it deliberately ponderous or unusually challenging and I'm being lazy? This book plays with reality and perception much like the films "Vertigo" and "Don't Look Now." There's also a clever hint of the Cohen brothers in a few scenes. I like noir and novels set in San Francisco (good use of the gloomy weather and mission history but I wanted more). One scene I did absolutely love: the protagonist's behavior gets stranger and stranger and he has an eerie conversation with his boss, deliberately opening the blinds in a way that is ...well...threatening. I also applaud the author depicting life for someone who works at a university but is not faculty. (This group of employees is not featured enough, in my opinion.) So, if you like books that are writerly and leave you wondering what really happened, I recommend this. And the cover is stunning. But I wish I were back in an undergraduate English class where we could discuss this (you know, the same class where we talked about Death in Venice).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Josh Mlot

    “The Scapegoat” by Sara Davis is a surreal, postmodern romp that reads like a fever dream. The narrator pursues answers after the death of his largely estranged father and ... stuff happens. Or does it? It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not; what’s dream and what’s waking reality; what’s well-intentioned and what’s darkly motivated. Therein lies the magic of this novel—as it raises more and more questions it sinks its hooks in. I finished the book thinking, “What just happened?” In some c “The Scapegoat” by Sara Davis is a surreal, postmodern romp that reads like a fever dream. The narrator pursues answers after the death of his largely estranged father and ... stuff happens. Or does it? It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not; what’s dream and what’s waking reality; what’s well-intentioned and what’s darkly motivated. Therein lies the magic of this novel—as it raises more and more questions it sinks its hooks in. I finished the book thinking, “What just happened?” In some cases that may have really dampened another reading experience, but with “The Scapegoat” it heightened it. There’s a totally unreliable narrator and murky, hazy plot, and humor, and subtle commentary on narrative structure. There are more questions than answers. (Are there really any of the latter?) If you need clean explanation and easy-to-follow plot—if you need answers—this isn’t the book for you. But I found it impossible to put down and a surreal, strange delight. 4.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill Reads

    N (the narrator) is a university professor and oddball who’s thrust into an odd situation. Unexpectedly, he sets off to investigate the mystery surrounding the death of his estranged father. Then he meets all sorts of characters who lead him to a hotel that on the outside appears to hold secrets and/or a surrounding conspiracy. The thing is that I just didn’t “get” this book. What was real? What was a dream? What was in the future? Despite the audiobook being just over 5 hours, I likely spent 7 h N (the narrator) is a university professor and oddball who’s thrust into an odd situation. Unexpectedly, he sets off to investigate the mystery surrounding the death of his estranged father. Then he meets all sorts of characters who lead him to a hotel that on the outside appears to hold secrets and/or a surrounding conspiracy. The thing is that I just didn’t “get” this book. What was real? What was a dream? What was in the future? Despite the audiobook being just over 5 hours, I likely spent 7 hours re-listening to the story to try and figure out what I was missing. For this reason, it’s not a book that I’d recommend to others. That said, I found that the narrator, Michael Brusaso, did a perfectly fine job. It was just the content I didn’t love. Special thanks to Dreamscape Media for a free listener copy of the book via the NetGalley app. This is my honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    This book is very unsettling. So many times you find yourself dropped into a plot path with no way of knowing how you got there or where you are going without the guidance of the narrator who also seems to be suffering through the same problem of connecting the dots. I wanted to make a list and draw a map but realized nothing would help. You can get through this short book quickly but you will walk away feeling you must have skipped chapters by accident. It starts as an investigation into the de This book is very unsettling. So many times you find yourself dropped into a plot path with no way of knowing how you got there or where you are going without the guidance of the narrator who also seems to be suffering through the same problem of connecting the dots. I wanted to make a list and draw a map but realized nothing would help. You can get through this short book quickly but you will walk away feeling you must have skipped chapters by accident. It starts as an investigation into the death of narrator's father but quickly spins into the kind of soulful uneasiness that you take with you even after putting the book down. There is a part of the book that describes a bathroom scene that gave me a "gotta turn all the lights on" scare.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Know in advance that this might seem a tad disjointed but keep reading to see how Davis pulls things together. N, our completely unreliable narrator, is a wastrel loner and fan of Wallender who is investigating the death of his father. He's led to a hotel which is almost a character; it's built on the site of a mission and someone apparently sent a sort of threat to his father, who was involved with it. I'm not sure how to describe this- there are dreams and then there's the issue of what's real Know in advance that this might seem a tad disjointed but keep reading to see how Davis pulls things together. N, our completely unreliable narrator, is a wastrel loner and fan of Wallender who is investigating the death of his father. He's led to a hotel which is almost a character; it's built on the site of a mission and someone apparently sent a sort of threat to his father, who was involved with it. I'm not sure how to describe this- there are dreams and then there's the issue of what's real and what's not, which is a struggle not only for N but for the reader. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. For fans of literary fiction.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Priya

    ‘The Scapegoat’ is one of the most generous literary novels I’ve read in years. This maybe Davis’s first novel but her words have a self-assurance and thoughtfulness towards the reader that’s increasingly rare. The novel is centred around N, a university employee investigating the murky circumstances of his father’s death. It becomes clear very quickly that N’s world is a spooky one and that this spookiness isn’t entirely related to his father’s death. There’s shame in N’s past but only some of ‘The Scapegoat’ is one of the most generous literary novels I’ve read in years. This maybe Davis’s first novel but her words have a self-assurance and thoughtfulness towards the reader that’s increasingly rare. The novel is centred around N, a university employee investigating the murky circumstances of his father’s death. It becomes clear very quickly that N’s world is a spooky one and that this spookiness isn’t entirely related to his father’s death. There’s shame in N’s past but only some of the shame is his doing. What I loved about this book is how willing I was to follow the banalities of N’s life. Evil may be banal but banal can still be interesting in the right hands. If you’ve been looking for the ‘serene and anonymous’ voice that James Merrill spoke of, you can stop. It’s here, in N’s slow unraveling and in the surreality of the world that Davis creates. It’s both in the precision and in the lack of flamboyance of her words. This is someone worth reading again and again. And again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kimmy

    This is a book that I feel like defies a straight-forward description or review. I still have so many questions now that I’ve finished reading, but I could not put it down. I went into this with an expectation that it was a fairly straightforward story, but it absolutely was not. And thankfully, this is one of those cases where my expectations had no bearing on my enjoyment. This wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but I loved it. There was definitely a dreamy, surreal quality to the writing This is a book that I feel like defies a straight-forward description or review. I still have so many questions now that I’ve finished reading, but I could not put it down. I went into this with an expectation that it was a fairly straightforward story, but it absolutely was not. And thankfully, this is one of those cases where my expectations had no bearing on my enjoyment. This wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but I loved it. There was definitely a dreamy, surreal quality to the writing and I really enjoyed puzzling over what I thought was going on. I was fully absorbed in whatever was happening here, and wish I had re-read parts of it before I returned it to the library. This is a really intriguing, spirally, confusing read and I really enjoyed it – even if I couldn’t exactly tell you what it was all about!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    N is employed by a California university. He is investigating his father’s death. We do not know, and do not learn from this book: whether either of those statements is true, N’s name, his job, how is father died, why N feels the death needs investigation, whether anything N says is true, whether there are 1, 2 or 3 women in this book and what may or may not have happened to any of them. The list goes on. I assume this sort of obfuscation in a book is intended to be modern and clever, but I just N is employed by a California university. He is investigating his father’s death. We do not know, and do not learn from this book: whether either of those statements is true, N’s name, his job, how is father died, why N feels the death needs investigation, whether anything N says is true, whether there are 1, 2 or 3 women in this book and what may or may not have happened to any of them. The list goes on. I assume this sort of obfuscation in a book is intended to be modern and clever, but I just found it annoying. I was really glad that this book is short. I doubt that I would read anything else by this author. I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher. 2.5 stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lorene

    "The Scapegoat" tells of a man who is a loner who works at a university, but we never find out what he does there. He is estranged from his father, who appears in various flashbacks. His father has just died, so the man goes to the open house where his father lived. The author gives us an idea of his life at the university and his home life. The book did not engage me and I didn't follow the different scenes as to what was real and what was imagined. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange fo "The Scapegoat" tells of a man who is a loner who works at a university, but we never find out what he does there. He is estranged from his father, who appears in various flashbacks. His father has just died, so the man goes to the open house where his father lived. The author gives us an idea of his life at the university and his home life. The book did not engage me and I didn't follow the different scenes as to what was real and what was imagined. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann Otto

    A quick, compulsive read. It isn't the genre I'd usually select but an author I like recommended it. It got great editorial reviews, "a mystery like a David Lynch movie, Swedish detective novel and the Shining combined"- which may be why the continual tension in the book frustrated me. Obviously, some other readers felt the same based on their reviews. It's difficult to tell what is real and what is a dream or other mental state in this first-person narrative novel, especially in the last 30 pag A quick, compulsive read. It isn't the genre I'd usually select but an author I like recommended it. It got great editorial reviews, "a mystery like a David Lynch movie, Swedish detective novel and the Shining combined"- which may be why the continual tension in the book frustrated me. Obviously, some other readers felt the same based on their reviews. It's difficult to tell what is real and what is a dream or other mental state in this first-person narrative novel, especially in the last 30 pages.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Snell

    NetGalley gave me the opportunity to listen to the audio book I feel like I need to process some of it or do I? The story reads like a man lost in the chaos and discombobulation of his own mind. We are taken along on that journey with him never quite knowing when we are weaving in and out of whichever part of the reality he’s in Aside from his his journey I found the main character to he rathe lack luster and dare I say boring His adventure and the authors ability to take you on a literary journey NetGalley gave me the opportunity to listen to the audio book I feel like I need to process some of it or do I? The story reads like a man lost in the chaos and discombobulation of his own mind. We are taken along on that journey with him never quite knowing when we are weaving in and out of whichever part of the reality he’s in Aside from his his journey I found the main character to he rathe lack luster and dare I say boring His adventure and the authors ability to take you on a literary journey still have me in my head wondering what the hell I just listened to

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    NetGalley ARC for the audiobook This rating is a reflection of my enjoyment of the book rather than its quality. I think the book went over my head. I found the language alienating, it was very stilted and mechanical, although this may have also been the narrator of the audiobook. I am generally fine with an unlikable protagonist, but this guy is unlikable and also kind of boring. The action moves very slowly and I was not at all invested in N or his "investigation." Honestly, if the book hadn't b NetGalley ARC for the audiobook This rating is a reflection of my enjoyment of the book rather than its quality. I think the book went over my head. I found the language alienating, it was very stilted and mechanical, although this may have also been the narrator of the audiobook. I am generally fine with an unlikable protagonist, but this guy is unlikable and also kind of boring. The action moves very slowly and I was not at all invested in N or his "investigation." Honestly, if the book hadn't been so short I would not have finished it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Sproul

    This debut by Sara Davis is one I'll be thinking about for a long, long time. I'm always drawn to unreliable narrators, and this book delivers a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, utterly complex protagonist. Structurally, this is probably one of the most memorable novels I've read in a while. It takes so many risks, and I couldn't put it down. Everyone should read this daring, complicated, beautifully written debut. This debut by Sara Davis is one I'll be thinking about for a long, long time. I'm always drawn to unreliable narrators, and this book delivers a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, utterly complex protagonist. Structurally, this is probably one of the most memorable novels I've read in a while. It takes so many risks, and I couldn't put it down. Everyone should read this daring, complicated, beautifully written debut.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Hmm...I'm going to have to keep thinking about this one, which isn't a bad sign at all. I can't entirely tell you what this story is about: a disturbed, lonely, odd individual who spirals out of control is probably the quickest explanation. But it's hard to know what really happened and to who. It's a quick and odd little read, a mystery unfolding from both ends. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to. Hmm...I'm going to have to keep thinking about this one, which isn't a bad sign at all. I can't entirely tell you what this story is about: a disturbed, lonely, odd individual who spirals out of control is probably the quickest explanation. But it's hard to know what really happened and to who. It's a quick and odd little read, a mystery unfolding from both ends. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    The writing? Beautiful. I can just picture the narrator and his world so perfectly. Unsure about what I just read and thinking over everything that happened. Who knows if I will ever figure it out, but I believe this feeling is mirrored in the main character and is therefore intentional????? Such a Meta Book for real

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michele Hans

    What an interesting and intriguing little book. I really don’t know exactly what happened - and by the end I knew the narrator could not be trusted at all. Everything was skewed; and the whole thing was very unsettling - which just added to the mystery. I wish I could sit down with the author and ask her questions!! Despite my constant confusion, I just couldn’t put it down.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I loved reading The Scapegoat! The kind of book you can’t put down, stay up late late reading, and wish it wasn’t over when you’re done. Highly recommended! I might actually reread it to trace some of the clues throughout the narrative.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    I didn't really find this book that enjoyable. Mostly, it was pretty boring. I couldn't connect to the story or the characters. I'd read another book by the author though. This one just wasn't for me. 2/5 Stars I didn't really find this book that enjoyable. Mostly, it was pretty boring. I couldn't connect to the story or the characters. I'd read another book by the author though. This one just wasn't for me. 2/5 Stars

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