Plot/Idea: Florschutz’s plot is a startling combination of dreamy and powerful, with several different perspectives woven into a stunning narrative. The romance between Brisdon and César in 1980s Peru is vividly wrought, with the passion and innocence of their love juxtaposed against the violence of Peru’s political landscape. The story is satisfyingly twisty, and Florschutz delivers an ending that offers both heartbreaking closure and surprising revelation.
Prose: Ethereal prose and striking metaphors dot the pages of Florschutz’s novel, and his graceful style allows for a surreal story set against the backdrop of weighty issues and remarkable characters.
Originality: The blend of timeless love, tragedy, and sociopolitical themes that Florschutz draws from makes this a revelatory novel that will stick with readers long after the last page.
Character/Execution: Florschutz crafts believable characters who are rich in authenticity. Despite Brisdon and César sweeping through the novel as impassioned, relatable protagonists, the supporting characters hold their own. Margaret’s intensity builds over the course of the story, with Florschutz allowing her devastating actions to echo across multiple characters’ lives, and Imogen plays a solid supporting role to the book’s unfolding events.
Blurb: A twisty, dreamlike tale of love, tragedy, and mystery.
Date Submitted: August 23, 2023
Four darkly compelling storylines converge in Florschutz’s debut novel.
On a dark, rainy night in early November, John Brisdon Noxon, a middle-aged art curator, disappears. His wife, Imogen, finds his hidden journals, including one detailing Brisdon’s trip to Peru as a young student—and his passionate affair with a local artist, César, which ended in tragedy. Each journal entry is addressed to Karen, Brisdon’s twin sister, who disappeared when the siblings were 5 years old. Fifteen years later, Imogen and her partner, Max, gather their family around them to commemorate the closing of their lakeside resort, the Sheltering Arms. That weekend, the mysteries of Brisdon’s disappearance—and of his sister’s—are illuminated in a series of haunting revelations. The novel weaves together four points of view: Brisdon as a young man lived in the shadow of his sister’s disappearance and haunted by the death of his parents in a plane crash. In Peru, he falls in love with César Acosta, heedless of the dangerous political climate, and is devastated by the atrocity that tears them apart. César, haunted by the same memories (and harboring a few secrets of his own), transforms into the reclusive artist CÁLA. Margaret, Brisdon’s Scottish mother (once a lively young woman, now a disturbed, paranoid personality), details the events leading up to the disappearance of her daughter. Finally, Imogen, surrounded by her loved ones, is left to pick up the pieces the others have left behind. The four storylines frequently overlap, and several scenes are depicted more than once from different perspectives; as in Rashomon, instead of feeling redundant, the repetitions add depth and nuance. The settings, ranging from post-war Scotland to rural Peru to a remote Ontario lake, provide evocative, moody backdrops for the story. “As we drove on, Lima felt ominous in the dim light–a polluted, dry, decaying insomniac of a metropolis.” The characters baffle and infuriate, like real people, and the unlikely series of coincidences at the end add to the uncanny, mystical feel.
Part mystery, part love story, part horror story, this debut novel lingers like a vivid dream.
In Roger J. Florschutz’s debut novel, The Peruvian Book of the Dead, readers are invited into a compelling mystery centered around the sudden and enigmatic disappearance of museum curator John Brisdon Noxon. The tale unfolds from four diverse perspectives, initiating with his wife Imogen’s discovery of a journal addressed to Brisdon’s sister, a character entwined with her own mysterious disappearance during childhood. Florschutz guides the reader toward a poignant and tragic conclusion through delicate and deliberate pacing.
What sets The Peruvian Book of the Dead apart is Florschutz’s deft use of literary devices, specifically the incorporation of a journal and multiple overlapping narratives. The utilization of the “journal” approach lends authenticity to the story, making it resonate as a first-hand account rather than a conventional fictional narrative. Florschutz’s mastery of weaving together multiple storylines and viewpoints adds depth and nuance, allowing readers not only to connect with each central character but also to see recurring characters and events through varied lenses. This layered storytelling technique never panders to the reader but challenges them to engage fully with the text, offering rich rewards for those who do.
Florschutz exhibits an acute understanding of human psychology, crafting vivid characters in their motivations, actions, and speech patterns. The novel does venture into dark thematic territory, so readers seeking lighter fare might need to look elsewhere. But for those prepared to embark on this intricate and thought-provoking journey, The Peruvian Book of the Dead stands as an exceptionally well-crafted and highly recommendable novel that showcases the emergence of a talented new voice in literary fiction.