The Accountant’s Apprentice begins as a fairly straightforward plot with a priest, Justin Moore, in existential crisis after witnessing a murder that he thinks he could have prevented if he’d had a little more courage. The result of this distress is that he leaves his parish to take a break from the priesthood –and possibly abandon it altogether. He moves to a San Diego apartment, living a very basic and solitary lifestyle.
Right around the time Moore moves into his new apartment, a neighbor is murdered and the police don’t seem to have solid leads as to who committed the crime. Tindal, a local detective, borderline harasses Moore about the situation, particularly when he learns that Moore recently witnessed a murder where he previously lived. The investigation continues throughout the entire book.
Another character is introduced named Ilsa, who moves into the apartment across the hall from Moore. She is an attractive, 20-something entomologist who is in the city to study the suffering bee population. She is a pleasant character consistently present in the book, but she seems a little unnecessary to the story. It almost feels like her entire purpose in the book is only to set up a later minor occurrence in the plot involving another character and bees. I think that could have been achieved without making her a main character.
Moore accepts a position driving a man named A.C. around the city of San Diego in a van. A.C. is in a wheelchair, so he needs assistance getting around. It starts out as just something to pass the time and make a little extra money, but evolves into much more. Aside from the more secretive meetings that Moore is not part of, they also visit fine art galleries and help out the needy in poor sections of the city. At first, A.C. tells Moore that he is an accountant for a large corporation called EWE International. Moore quickly realizes he isn’t an accountant, but can’t pinpoint exactly who A.C. is or what he does with EWE International. Moore is also confused because there seem to be no records of EWE as a company.
I have to admit, I was intrigued to find out the true identity of the mysterious man in the wheelchair. Also, I wanted to know the real nature of EWE international. I’m not really sure I found out either of those things. The plot arrives at a confusing spiritual/metaphysical ending where both A.C. and EWE are “explained” in an ambiguous manner.
Clausen includes many different themes in the book; a bit of a mish-mash of random worldly concerns. The book discusses saving bees from extinction, the doubting of faith by clergymen, poverty in large cities, gang crime, fine art appreciation, man’s obsession with murder and war, and –for some reason- ruminations on the Rubik’s Cube. If that sounds like too much for a book under 200 pages to take on, it’s because it is. Sometimes a writer just goes in way too many directions, and ironically, his characters end up not really doing much at all.
Clausen developed interesting characters in Moore and A.C. A decent foundation was laid for the last act to bring it home in a thrilling reveal of who A.C. was, what EWE was, and how Moore will move on with his life. Unfortunately, the climax and ending were pretty muddled and confusing. On a positive note, I did like where the Moore character ended up after working through his mental struggle.