This review originally appeared at Outsider Writers CollectiveWith Man Standing Behind, Pablo D’Stair completes his set of thematically linked “existential noir” novellas, collectively called They Say the Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter.As with most of D’Stair’s work, plot has been loosened in favor of the conflicted protagonist’s internal dilemmas. In the case of Man Standing Behind, the loose plot involves our central character, Roger, being held at gun-point by Donald, a patient, self-assured (or so we assume) murderer with unknown motivations. Donald leads Roger throughout their small, nondescript town, killing people with nonchalance that in any other author’s hands might define Donald as a soulless psychopath. And though he may be a psychopath we learn that the killer is perhaps just as confused by his actions as both Roger and the reader. The novella therefore reads as a meandering (purposefully) series of mental struggles, attempts to rationalize escape (“Not that I could leave, certainly”),to rationalize survival (“I didn’t want to give him any reason to think I might be trying something”), and to rationalize motivation (“There was very much the impulse to…bring attention to my situation. But what was my situation?”).The keyword being, of course, rationalize.This is where D’Stair shines. He has the ability to take a situation, one which might traditionally be addressed emotionally, and analyze it to the point of emotional emptiness. Life and death, to D’Stair’s narrators, is not a fight or flight, subconscious decision, but is one to be pondered, examined, weighed against context. In the first novella of the collection, Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate, the narrator wedges his logic into the illogic of love. Then, with Twelve ELEVEN Thirteen, a man is consumed by his attempts to rationalize the appearance of a stranger in his apartment building hallway.Man Standing Behind acts as a logical extension to the previous three novellas, building upon the self-reflection that saturated those books while allowing the narrator to, for perhaps the first time in the series, project upon the world outside himself. One key statement, on page 57, summarizes this book, and the entire series, beautifully:“I looked at him, felt dead.”Man Standing Behind is essentially a story of limbo, of a man once alive, now somewhere between life and death. But more importantly, this is a man conscious of his position.