The Tryst is an odd book by Michael Dibdin, the author of the Aurelio Zen mysteries. Although billed as a crime novel, it takes some time to get around to the crime. In fact, it misleads us into thinking it is one type of novel when it is actually another.
The novel follows the actions of two characters, a homeless boy and the therapist who is trying to figure out why the boy is pretending to be insane. Gary Dunn has come to the psychiatric hospital where Aileen Macklin works as a psychiatrist requesting institutionalization and insisting that someone is trying to kill him.
We find out that Gary, a glue-sniffing boy who lives with a bunch of junkies, has befriended an old man. Although Gary’s mates would like to rob the man, Gary has become involved in the old man’s long, involved story about a former employer who sees a beautiful woman no one else sees. In the story, the employer follows the woman to his death. This story eventually connects the fates of Aileen and Gary.
Ultimately, the novel doesn’t work that well, because it starts out being a crime thriller and turns into more of a gothic novel/ghost story. It is too much one kind of novel to work successfully as the other kind. Although the novel is well written and interesting, it reads almost as if Dibdin started with an idea and changed his mind in midstream. For a better example of a book that combines a crime story with a ghost story, read Johan Theorin’s fantastic The Darkest Room.