Saturday, January 29, 2011

West of Here by Jonathan Evison (review)

I was planning on posting this review of Jonathan Evison's brilliant new novel, West of Here just a few weeks before the February release date, but this week his publisher surprised me and released the book early. (Thinking I was getting a jump on things, I returned home from ABA Winter Institute to see WOH already on the front table in the store.) Jonathan also received a huge spread in the industry daily, Shelf Awareness this week, not to mention that the book is the Number One Indiebound pick for February. So rather than being ahead of the curve for once, I am a day late and a dollar short. Sigh.

It was the early review blurbs on the ARC back jacket that actually forced my hand - yes, I fell victim to the marketing campaign. David Liss, author of The Coffee Trader (which I finally read last year), Dan Chaon, of Await Your Reply (which I read & mildly enjoyed last year), and Jim Lynch, who I have not read but have considered reading (which is good enough). Algonquin then threw these two softballs at me: James P. Othmer, a casual reader of the Book Catapult and author of the 2010 Notable Notable Holy Water who called it "A daring, gorgeously structured, and deeply satisfying expedition of a novel" and Ron Currie, author of my favorite book from 2009, Everything Matters!  'Nuff said, as they say. (I am sorry that all of the blurbs were provided by male authors, but it wasn't my fault.)

West of Here is set in the fictional town of Port Bonita on the Olympic peninsula of Washington and alternates between two time periods: 1890, when the town is just beginning and Washington is on the cusp of statehood and 2006, when the town is fading from prominence and the decisions made in 1890 are coming full circle on the residents. The cast of characters is vast, but not unmanageable and you soon learn of the wide variety of connections between the residents of the two time periods. 

"...what I really wanted to write was a novel about history, about the countless tiny connections that bind people together, and tie people to a place, and a time, and how the sum total of all these connections amounted to a living breathing history." - Jonathan Evison, in an interview in Shelf Awareness, January 24, 2011

1890: James Mather is leading a relatively foolish expedition south of Port Bonita, along the Elwha River and hopefully over the mountains to the greener pastures and fertile valleys beyond. The Klallam Indians in the area have warned him of the Thunderbird who protects the southern valley, but Mather presses on. Eva Lambert has come to Port Bonita to write for the local newspaper and make a name for herself, independent of her father or any other man. She is also 9 months pregnant when the curtain rises - an obstacle she refuses to yield to. Ethan Thornburgh has followed Eva to this tiny town, in the hopes of forcing her to accept him and allow him to prove that he is a man of some salt. Determined to capitalize on the approaching land grab, Ethan has grand plans for Port Bonita and the surrounding environs. And then there's young Thomas, mute and mysterious, he has a foot in both the White world and the Klallam, the physical and the ethereal. Is he really The Storm King of legend or just a weird little kid?

2006: The descendants of PB's original residents are living in the shadow of all that their forefathers wrought. After Ethan Thornburgh built the Thornburgh hydroelectric dam in 1894, the region changed - for a time, for the better. The salmon cannery industry blossomed for much of the 20th century and the population boomed, but now the salmon stock has been depleted, mostly due to the fact that the fish can no longer swim upriver due to the dam. Port Bonita is a dying town. Jared Thornburgh, son of a senator and great-grandson to Ethan, struggles with reconciling the town's past with the future and the legacy of his family name. Dave Krigstadt is convinced he saw Bigfoot in the mountains, but is learning that he needs to set boundaries when he talks to other people. Mostly about Bigfoot. Franklin Bell, the local parole officer and the only black man in town, lives alone, hums Don Henley songs, and drinks eggnog all-year-round. Curtis is a young, troubled Klallam who rails against the establishment, but seems to have a deep connection to his predecessor, Thomas - although, what this connection really is remains to be seen.

It would be really easy for this review to get away from me and end up being a synopsis of every character that inhabits the pages of West of Here. I think the author put it best in his interview: this is a novel about the connecting threads between us all, whether across generations and decades or between those we see every day. We all are responsible, on some level, for the creation of the space we live in and ultimately how livable that space becomes. 

On the surface, you might wonder, "Well, what's this all about?" That's just the point, actually - the arc of this story traces seemingly insignificant glimpses into the lives of the characters that ultimately become monumental, life-changing events when viewed from afar. Evison uses his considerable powers to weave together all these vignettes of PB's residents - a staggering chorus of voices - into a stunning tale of humanity at both its absolute worst and its heart-rendering best. The veil that separates generations proves to be rather thin, even porous, when you step back with a little historical perspective. 

Oh, and in case all of that sounds too serious, it tends to be really, really funny. Onward!
...Bell lowered himself back onto his squeaky chair then stood, walked to the corner, picked up the eggnog carton, and dunked it. He sat back down in his squeaky chair. "That there's a high percentage shot. And that's how you do it, Tillman. You gotta slam dunk your life. Think about the future you want for yourself. When you figure that out, the rest is easy. Find a hole, get yourself a head full of steam, grip that rock, and drive to the hoop. And like the man says, 'Don't look back, you can never look back!'"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wayne Gretzky Day

While the world reacts to the President's State of the Union address this morning and goes about their daily business, I am thinking about hockey, for today is the 50th anniversary of the birth of The Great One. While you sip your coffee and discuss the economy of Europe, I am thinking about his 894 goals, 1,963 assists, and 2,857 points. (Regular season, of course.) Egypt may be falling apart right now, but I can remember cutting out every newspaper article on him from 1987-93, at least. You might be thinking about Congresswoman Gifford's improved condition, but I am remembering the shocked feeling I had on that late summer day in 1988 when they announced that he had been traded to Los Angeles. I have been able to find Brantford, Ontario on a map since I was 12. I read his 1990 autobiography at least 25 times. I still wear the black LA Kings t-shirt that I got for Christmas in 1989, much to my wife's dismay. I know that he scored 378 goals in a single season when he was ten. And that he scored 51 goals & tied for the NHL scoring title in his rookie season. And that he scored over 200 points in an NHL season 4 times - something that no one else has done even once. AND that his 92 goals in a season is a record that will never be broken - as will his mark of 50 career hat tricks. But I digress.

Happy 50th birthday, Wayne Gretzky.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #1

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Was there ever any doubt, really?

What can I say about this book that I haven't already said? I first wrote about it after I finished it just over a year ago and again the week it was published. (Yes, I'm including it on this list because its publication date was June 2010, even though I read it in late 2009. Get over it.) I also wrote about it on the Warwick's blog for  "Are You Seth, vol.10" and again on the Catapult when Mitchell was snubbed by the Booker Prize committee in September. And there was "Booker Be Damned, Read David Mitchell!" that I wrote for KPBS's Culture Lust blog in October. So the #1 status should come as no surprise if you've been paying attention.

I was fortunate enough to meet the man himself at a booksigning in July at Skylight Books in L.A. where he confessed that he had read what I wrote about the book back in December 2009 on this site. (I nearly died.) When I went up to the signing table clutching my (rare) bound manuscript of Thousand Autumns, I mentioned that I worked for an indie bookstore in San Diego and he said, "Um, didn't you write a review back in December, perhaps, where you said something like, 'Holy shit, what a book?'" Yep, that was me!  He actually went on to thank me for writing such a positive early review (if it can be called that - it was awfully brief), as it made him feel like he had created something of worth - up until that point, all the readers were either relatives or publishing people. So I've got that going for me.

I won't get into too much of the plot of Thousand Autumns here, as you can read one of my other ten thousand pieces for that. In a nutshell, it's set in the year 1799 on the manmade island of Dejima, in the middle of Nagasaki harbor in Japan. The Dutch are the only Westerners allowed to trade with the isolationist Shogunate, but they are banned from actually setting foot on Japanese soil, hence the manufactured island. Jacob de Zoet is a low-level clerk for the Dutch East Indies Company who has traveled to Dejima to make his fortune and return to marry his ladyfriend within the next five years. (A 19th-century 5-year plan, if you will.) As fate will have it, Jacob falls in (unrequited) love with a local midwife almost immediately and remains quite conflicted, both in matters of the heart and of his faith for the duration. Soon after, this Miss Aibagawa disappears under mysterious circumstances and Jacob must do all he can to break through the significant linguistic and cultural barriers uncover the truth and save the woman he loves.

What Jacob feels for Orito Aibagawa is ultimately the driving force to the whole novel. Here, he is tending to his garden when Orito approaches him after her schooling session with Dr. Marinus, the Dutch doctor:
She askes, "Why does Mr. Dazuto work today as Dejima gardener?"
"Because," the pastor's nephew lies through his teeth, "I enjoy a garden's company. As a boy," he leavens his lie with some truth, "I worked in a relative's orchard. We cultivated the first plum trees ever to grow in our village."
"In the village of Domburg," she says, "in province of Zeeland."
"You are most kind to remember." Jacob breaks off a half dozen young sprigs. "Here you are." For a priceless coin of time, their hands are linked by a few inches of fragrant herb, witnessed by a dozen bloodorange sunflowers.
I don't want a purchased courtesan, he thinks. I wish to earn you.
**Warning: this is about where this post turns into a bit of a David Mitchell Nerd-fan Showcase. Sorry.**  Mitchell's previous novels - especially the Booker-shortlisted Cloud Atlas and his debut, Ghostwritten - have amazingly intricate labyrinthine plots, multiple timelines, and a myriad of characters whose stories all intermesh and flow around each other in a narrative dance unlike anything I have read before or since. In comparison, Thousand Autumns seems rather straightforward and linear, although populated by a staggering number of characters. For the bookseller in me, it has proven easier to sell this book, actually, by referring to its "historical fiction" structure.  (When you have a 70-year old lady say, "Oh, I love historical fiction set in Japan!" when you're talking to her about a David Mitchell novel... there's something different there.)  But, after meeting him and hearing him discuss his work this past summer, I have a renewed appreciation for the bottomless depths of his books, the connections - both seen and unseen - between them and can see the role that Thousand Autumns has an integral cog in the machine that is his collected work.

At his signing in Los Angeles, he referred to all of his books as "sort of chapters in an übernovel or a hypernovel" and mentioned the presence of "hyperlinks" between books in the guise of recurring characters. This sort of talk makes people like me crap their pants. The very idea that he is crafting one giant, career-long novel...  Schwing! I would strongly recommend listening to the entire podcast of Mitchell's event at Skylight books - it was really one of the best author events I have ever witnessed, and not just because I'm a nerd fan. To hear the author himself reading the opening to Chapter 39 should convince you enough - although, if you've gotten to this point in this review without wanting to read Thousand Autumns, there's something wrong with you.

There is no author on the planet that I have yet read that can craft a better, more beautiful, eloquent, & powerful sentence than David Mitchell. He is an innovative, clever, witty, and wholly original storyteller, which is why I believe that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell was the best book of 2010.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #2

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Now we're really getting down to it - the top two.

This is a book that I never get tired of talking about - a good thing when talking about books is your livelihood. Here's my never-fails plot synopsis: 

Silas "32" Jones was born the son of a poor, single black mother in Chicago. When he was 13 and his mother's boyfriend went off to prison, they moved to rural Mississippi to get a fresh start. Silas soon became friends with white, lower-middle-class Larry Ott. There seemed to be some sort of underlying familiarity between Larry's parents and Silas' mother, but it was never elaborated on by the adults. When they were 16, unpopular Larry went on an unprecedented date with a girl, but the girl never returned home. While there was never any proof that Larry had done anything untoward and he was never tried for any crimes, he never talked about what happened, choosing to live with the stigma of what he might have done. His friendship with Silas was shattered as a result and Silas left town to go to college. Now, nearly 25 years later, Silas has returned to tiny Chabot, Mississippi as a police constable and another girl has gone missing. The whispers about "Scary" Larry Ott have never gone away and the town assumes that he is behind the new disappearance. But Larry is lying in a coma after being attacked in his home and Silas is the only one who can clear his former friend's name...

So what's so special about this book that seems like a pretty straight forward crime novel? For one, I would never label it as genre fiction or a crime novel or a mystery or anything so simplistic or uninspired. As cliché as it may sound, the story is never about the perceived crime committed - although it does prove integral to uncovering the true characters of Larry and Silas. It's more about how the people of tiny Chabot are affected by the crime's longstanding aftermath, especially in the way they treat Larry, even if it has never been proven that he ever did anything wrong. A novel of preconceived notions, perhaps.

Above and beyond all that is Tom Franklin's ability to somehow subtly create an amazing sentence that can impress with a quiet power and unspoken emotions. Here Larry meets Silas for the first time:
The pair of them was standing at the bend in the road by the store, a tall, thin black woman and her son, about Larry's age, a rabbit of a boy he'd seen at school, a new kid. He wondered what they were doing here, this far out, before the store opened. Despite the cold the boy wore threadbare jeans and a white shirt and his mother a blue dress the wind curved over her figure. She wore a cloth around her hair, breath torn from her lips like tissues snatched from a box.
His father passed without stopping, Larry turning his head to watch the boy and his mother peer at them from outside. 
Larry turned. "Daddy?"
"Ah dern," said his father, jabbing the brakes. He had to back up to meet them, then he leaned past Larry on the truck's bench seat (an army blanket placed over it by his mother) and rattled the knob and they were in in a burst of freezing air that seemed to swirl even after the woman had shut the door. 
While this excerpt isn't necessarily indicative of this, I was struck by Franklin's command over the dialogue. It would be easy to fall into a down-home, Southern Mississippi patois when writing a novel like this, but he manages to keep any hokiness out of the way his characters speak to one another. There's no verbal showboating here, leaving you focused more on what is left unsaid than what is.

It truly is the unspoken storylines that drive this book forward. What happened on that fateful date so long ago? What is the connection, if any, between the parents of these men? If innocent, why has Larry never tried to clear his name? This is a novel about perceptions - both by the characters within and the reader - and how those perceptions can transform as more facts are filled in. As the plot gently unfolds, you learn more and more about the connection between Larry and Silas, quietly altering your perception of who each of them are. As the story is revealed, the images you have of each of these men on the first page is inexorably different by the final sentence. Franklin almost toys with the reader, offering up early assumptions about his characters, leading us down one path, only to have the path double back ten-times over before the end. Which makes for some truly brilliant fiction and the #2 book that I read in 2010.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #3

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
I know it's dangerous territory to call any one book "the best" of a genre, but perhaps with the exception of the novels of Tim O'Brien, Matterhorn has got to be the best novel of Vietnam that has been written to date. (A mouthful, I know.) It took decorated veteran Karl Marlantes 35 years to get the story inside him down onto paper - how many more firsthand novels of that era can there be on the horizon? This is something I keep going back to, almost as a defense of the novel as the best of its genre: who can top this? Who was in that war and is still working on a more realistic novel than this one? 

It is such a powerful story that I feel I am almost doing him a disservice by putting his book as low as #3 on this list - as if something so trifling would phase someone who has experienced what he has. Sometimes I am such an idiot. 

Matterhorn is a novel that highlights the utter futility, stupidity, and frustration that permeates modern warfare. It's the story of a company of Marines, entrenched in the jungle of Vietnam, forced to protect, defend, abandon, attack, and hold a supposedly strategically significant mountain that rises above the treeline just south of the DMZ. While there are a few bright spots, it is a ensemble cast of characters - every man in Bravo Company has a name and a story worth listening to. Each is as integral to the telling of this tale as the next - much as it would be in reality. These men fight, kill, and often die, at the whim of an alcoholic, glory-seeking Battalion Commander who watches and criticizes from afar. It is raw, yet elegant - powerful, yet humble; a remarkable book that forces a fresh perspective on a sad chapter in American history.

I've struggled a bit with what I wanted to say about Matterhorn in this post - unlike other books on this Notable list, there wasn't one particular passage that resonated with me and Marlantes' writing isn't as elegant & polished as some others. (He's infinitely better at exposition than James Patterson, I can guarantee you that.) I was born in 1975 - a month and a half after Saigon fell - so for me, there's always been a bit of a mystique surrounding Vietnam. It is a war that has left its indelible stamp on my generation - even though we were just barely getting started as it came to a close. I didn't want to paint a picture of Matterhorn as a total downer of a novel, all blood and suffering and pain and war, even though I haven't read anything that has brought the stark reality of that war to the forefront quite like this one. The bottom line is that it is a very realistic novel about what it is like to be a soldier on the front lines of a war - and everything that that entails. You sort of have to take it or leave it, you know? At Number 3 on our countdown, I say take it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #4

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare
A shocker in the Top Five, I know!  When first published in England, The Whale (originally, Leviathan, or the Whale) was awarded the UK's most prestigious nonfiction award, the Samuel Johnson Prize - sort of like the Booker Prize of nonfiction - yet it has received almost no attention in the States that I've seen. Ah, but I noticed - and what wonders I found within!

Did you know that whales in recent years have been found – well over 150 years old - with 19-century harpoon heads still lodged in their blubber? Or that some scientists think that whales may have developed complex "emotions, abstract concepts and, perhaps, religion?" Hoare, although born with an innate fear of deep water, has had a lifelong obsession with the family Cetacean & has compiled a riveting account of what is, essentially, the human history of the whale. The Whale is filled with (disgusting) tales of ambergris, hefty literary allusions to Melville & his white whale, accounts of humanity’s ongoing, (mostly) unhealthy whale mania, and a breath-taking first-hand account of Hoare's own experience of swimming in open ocean with the world’s largest, loudest animal. 

Personally, I was kept sated by passages about amazing whale facts:

A sperm whale can create a two-hundred decibel boom able to travel one hundred miles along the "sofar" channel, a layer of deep water that readily conducts noise. It seems strange that such a physically enormous creature should rely on something so intangible; but bull sperm whales, by virtue of their larger heads, generate sounds so powerful that they may stun or even kill their prey. These directional acoustic bursts, focused through their foreheads and likened to gunshots, are the equivalent, as one writer notes, of the whale killing its quarry by shouting very loudly at it. 

I grew up in Connecticut - a San Diego County-sized piece of real estate - where the sperm whale is the state animal, the defunct NHL team is the Whalers, and where thousands of whaling families made their homes in the whale oil crazy 1800's. Twenty pages into The Whale, the author is on a whale watch off Provincetown, MA, off the north end of Cape Cod - something I did almost every summer as a vacationing kid. With the exception of four years of college, I have never lived far from the sea, so, like the author, I have a healthy fascination with the creatures who populate its depths. I offer this information as sort of a disclaimer: I like to read books about fish and other sorted ocean dwellers. Cod, Tuna, A Fish Caught in Time, The Whale - these are comfort reads for me, but I realize that the subject of slimy underwater creatures may not be for everyone.

That said, The Whale is very much a volume of history and Hoare never pretends to be a scientist, or a cetologist (a whale scientist), or an ichthyologist, but rather a curious historian interested in the long-standing & complex relationship between humans and these giant creatures who roam the depths of our world's seas. He uses Herman Melville as a centerpiece of sorts, as the author of Moby Dick researched his masterwork by venturing out as a hand on a whaleship and spent several years on the docks of New Bedford, Massachusetts learning the trade. (He also was BFF with Nathaniel Hawthorne, who helped him form his writing style, which is interesting in and of itself, I thought.)  Using this literary angle, Hoare is able to bring the history around to practical purposes - to put things into perspective in relation to the history of humans and the whale. Melville was like the Jon Krakauer of the 1840's, climbing Mount Everest for the story of a lifetime. Somehow, learning that Herman spent so much time around the culture of the whale before putting his story down on paper lent something more to the romance of his novel.

Either way you look at it, whatever your reasons for reading it are, this is a fascinating, highly readable history, an amazing exploration of a majestic animal, and quite a funny volume of personal discovery that comes in swimming strong at Number Four on the countdown.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #5

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr
Doerr is the author of three previous books: one of my favorite novels, About Grace, a memoir of his time spent in Rome, and an earlier collection of short stories called The Shell Collector. Memory Wall is a volume of two novellas and four shorter pieces, all revolving around the central theme of memory.
One night in November, at three in the morning, Alma wakes to hear the rape gate across her front door rattle open and someone enter her house. Her arms jerk; she spills a glass of water across the nightstand. A floorboard in the living room shrieks. She hears what might be breathing. Water drips onto the floor.
Alma manages a whisper. "Hello?"
A shadow flows across the hall. She hears the scrape of a shoe on the staircase, then nothing. Night air blows into the room - it smells of frangipani and charcoal. Alma presses a fist over her heart.
Beyond the balcony windows, moonlit pieces of clouds drift over the city. Spilled water creeps toward her bedroom door.
Thus opens the title story of Memory Wall -  with apologies for swiping such a large chunk of the story there. Even in a piece such as this - set in a future Cape Town, South Africa where we have the ability to digitally preserve memories for revisiting once the originals are gone or corrupted - Doerr opens a window and allows at least the reminder of the beauty of the natural world to flow in. I love the smells on the night air and the subtle drip of the water from the spilled glass. Water is certainly a recurring theme - not just in these six stories, but in all of Doerr's work - one of submergence, of washing clean, of the fleeting flow of memories.

Memory is such a tenuous, fragile, human phenomenon whose presence we usually take for granted - this ignorance is essentially the underlying theme in all of these stories. Even in the dystopia of the title story it is proven that you cannot hang onto memories after their time is up, while in Afterworld, for some there is a diaphanous, porous barrier between our waking world & an afterlife subsisting on memories. (This one reminded me of Kevin Brockmeier's fantastic novel, The Brief History of the Dead.) Rivers and lakes, giant fish and dinosaur bones, collected seeds and wounded cranes - all mix and blend with tales of husbands and wives, fathers and sons, grandfathers and granddaughters, friends lost, abandoned towns, and the memory of all things.

I know that I harp on this subject quite a bit - both on this site and in real life - but I really wish more people would read short stories. Some of the finest fiction I have ever read has been from short form pieces - many of which have been written by Anthony Doerr. Alma Konachek (from "Memory Wall"), the hunter in "The Hunter's Wife," and "The Shell Collector" are all characters that have stuck with me long after I first read their tales. A story doesn't have to be 300 pages in order for you to connect with a character or become emotionally involved. Hell, look at Jonathan Franzen's Freedom - over 500 pages of blathering about people I could never empathize with or care about in the slightest. 

The title story in Doerr's book was originally commissioned by McSweeney's and their editor & founder, Dave Eggers wrote that the piece Doerr turned in has "the nuance and depth and complexity of a novel five times as long." So you see, I'm not alone! MW was also a NYT Notable Book, an Amazon Top Ten Literature & Fiction title for 2010, and a Boston Globe Top 12, just in case being #5 on the Catapult doesn't do it for you.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 Catapult Notable List - #6

Yes, it's New Year's Day, I know, but I figured I should just keep this Catapult list rolling along, despite the holiday. If you're visiting on January 1, thanks, & Happy New Year!

Truth by Peter Temple
Of Peter Temple's previous eight books, five have won the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel, essentially solidifying him as the master of Aussie crime fiction. (Broken Shore, a Book Catapult "Notable Notable" in 2007, won the CWA Gold Dagger, the Colin Roderick Award, and the Australian Book Industry Award. Not bad shakes.)  Truth was the winner of the 2009 Miles Franklin Award - essentially the National Book Award for Australia.

The truth is, Truth is complicated. This is a good thing, a great thing - Temple is his country's most-decorated crime novelist for good reason & he'll definitely keep you on your toes. Truth blazes with a raw, searing intensity that drives his detective Stephen Villani forward as if there were a raging firestorm at his back. In fact, there is – the outback is ablaze, forcing a blistering, miserably dry heat into the city of Melbourne. 

In his office, Gavan Kiely gone to Auckland, Villani switched on the big monitor, muted, waited for the 6:30 p.m. news, unmuted.
A burning world - scarlet hills, grey-white funeral plumes, trees exploding, blackened vehicle carapaces, paddocks of charcoal, flames sluicing down a gentle slope of brown grass, the helicopters' water trunks hanging in the air. 
With this furnace as a backdrop, Villani’s multiple cases merge and blend into each other, braiding political corruption with scenes of horrific violence on the uneasy city streets. As his marriage crumbles and his teenaged daughter takes up with a tattoo-faced drug dealer, Villani must negotiate the inept bureaucracy that is Australian law enforcement and the political iron curtain that seems to block his path at every turn to tie his cases together in time. My advice would be to read this slowly – soak in the great regional vernaculars, the sharp, tense dialogue, and keep an eye on as many characters as you can – they all play a part by the end. This is the best, most intricate crime novel I’ve read since…I honestly don’t know when – it’s that good.