Two words from a former student — “Help me” — send English professor and former spy Cameron Winter on a deep dive into the dark side of big tech in Andrew Klavan’s newest novel, “A Strange Habit of Mind.”
Klavan’s book, a sequel to the 2021 mystery “When Christmas Comes,” follows Winter as he digs into the possible connection between his former student — Adam Kemp — and big tech billionaire Gerald Byrne. Byrne is a loving husband and father, a visionary, and an eccentric philanthropist at the top of a social media empire — called Byrner — whose good work somehow appears to leave behind a trail of bodies.
When Kemp allegedly commits suicide just after reaching out to him for help, Winter relies on a talent he refers to as a “strange habit of mind” — the ability to put himself into a crime scene and imagine all the possible ways in which the events could have played out. When he applies that trick to Kemp’s final moments, he finds that a number of things don’t quite add up — and that is when he learns that Kemp was entangled with Byrne’s niece.
— Andrew Klavan (@andrewklavan) October 25, 2022
Klavan describes Winter as a sort of flawed anti-hero — a man who is clearly burdened by some of the things he did in the name of his country as a spy and may see uncovering the truth about Kemp as a way to balance the scales.
“Winter is an anti-hero trying to become a hero, and I find that incredibly poignant and compelling. How the hell do you become a good man?” Klavan asked. “Men tend to think of The Good as something that’s opposed to The Bad: the cop who fights crime, the doctor who cures disease, the fireman and so on. Winter takes that battle on with all its shadows but he’s also looking for something else: love, beauty, creation, redemption.”