Book Review: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin

The Reconstructionist by Nick ArvinRating: 4.5/5
I read this in: English, the original language
I got this: from Harper Perennial for review
Number of pages: 336
First published: 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction

What a title! Someone suggested to me that there were a lot of …nist titles out recently. I did read The Informationist by Taylor Stevens not long ago, but I think that’s it. Let me know what ...nist book you’ve read. It would be fun to make a list!

Edited to add this list:

  • The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin
  • The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
  • The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
  • The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

A reconstructionist works on road accidents, it’s a forensic job in which the exact cause and effect of a road crash is researched, usually to find out who or what is to blame.

The Reconstructionist: What it is about

Ellis Barstow works as a reconstructionist and together with his boss John Boggs, they travel to fatal-accidents sites. They also research cars that have been involved in those accidents and reconstruct what most likely happened during the accident.

Ellis is obsessed with Heather, Boggs wife, who was his brother’s girlfriend when they were teenagers. His brother, Christopher, had an accident in which he died, while Heather was burned in her face.

Ellis is in a difficult situation: John Boggs is not only his boss but also his friend, but Ellis now has an affair with Heather. This makes him feel guilty, but given his obsession with her, he can’t seem to end it. Also, having had his brother die in a car accident, the job of reconstructionist is maybe not a good choice for him, although he is good at his work.

When Boggs disappears, Ellis tries to find him and travels all over the country back to the accident locations that they have resarched together in the past, as he expects to find him there.

The Reconstructionist: What I thought

I’d say this is more of a men’s book than a women’s. At least, it’s a man’s story, his obsession for doing his job well, his obsession with Heather, and the topic that-cannot-be-discussed: his brother’s accident.

Saying that, I very much enjoyed the book. It wasn’t a book that kept me busy thinking about it when I was not reading it, but every time I picked it up again, I was glad to be back in Ellis’ world.

Ellis really has too little to do. Besides his job and his affair with Heather, he has nothing much happening in his life. In fact, his life is a bit of a mess and he knows this has to change. But like most people, he finds it easier to keep going.

The reconstruction of accidents at first, and the road journey to find Boggs back later on, are sufficiently interesting to keep reading. I loved reading about the accidents and how Boggs and Barstow analyse the information they have. The search for Boggs got a little boring after a while, but since I was quite certain he would find Boggs or evidence of him, eventually, I enjoyed reading on.

The story only slowly moves forward. It’s written beautifully but not in a difficuly, heavily literary manner. My only complaint is Heather. I didn’t find her a very nice person and I couldn’t quite see why Ellis was so obsessed with her.

This book is more a psychological investigation than a plot-driven action novel.

About Judith
I'm owner and editor at and We edit books and articles for independent writers.

12 Responses to Book Review: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin

  1. parrish lantern says:

    I’ve seen this somewhere quite recently & thought that it sounded interesting, but can’t recall where

    • Leeswammes says:

      Gary, Shelleyrae of Book’d Out also reviewed this. Or maybe you saw it on my What’s New post last week or so.

      It may be a story you’d enjoy.

  2. This looks really interesting, Judith, maybe one for my continuously growing list. I don’t think I read a ‘nist’ book lately, but I will check my list of reviews. I hadn’t noticed there were a lot of books lately with such a title, but it would indeed be fun to make a list…

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    It seems you liked this more than I did Judith – I enjoyed the first half and the details about accident reconstruction but the second half got a bit surreal and it lost me.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, I think I liked it better then you, Shelleyrae. I didn’t find the second half surreal, it was like a road movie story and I like those, generally.

  4. Leslie says:

    Sounds like a book I’d like and it’s on my to-read list. I’m going to have to live an awful long time to read all the books I’m putting on the list!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Leslie, you probably need to review your wish list every now and then. I do! I usually keep it below 100 although I think it may have slipped over recently…

  5. I’ll be on the look out for -ist books so I can help compile a list 🙂 What a fun idea. For now I have The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I confess that the accidents and the analysis concerning them is what interests me about this one.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Reflections, yes, the analysis of the accidents was really interesting, sounds macabre but it wasn’t.

      Thanks for *The Hypnotist*, that’s one more!

  6. Shonda says:

    This will definitely go on my list. It’s not something I would normally read, so that’s good. I’m slowly branching out from my comfort zone and discovering other genres, new authors, etc. Great review!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Shonda, nice that you’re looking for different kinds of books! I do that sometimes by joining challenges or by entering for giveaways of books that I am not sure I’ll enjoy. I have come across a lot of great books that way.

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