In his striking first novel, Mantel creates a dark world where everyone has a secret that could lead to destruction. Donny's apparent hallucinations put him on what seems like a road to violence. Sadasia and Capers develop an affair as satisfying as it is destructive. Most arresting of all is the gradual and poignant fall of Ellia, in another case of inner demons and uncontrolled appetites. Although the plot turns are as complex as the characters’ all-too-human motives, the set pieces are so lively that the reader is carried through until the last page.
A key reason the book moves so quickly is Mantel's terrific use of language, an homage to classic noir fiction but always fresh in its own way. A description of how Donny is conceived is a joyfully bizarre cross between Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams. As a bird dies, its "feathers liquified, popped, hissed and sizzled like the Yule Log broadcast every Christmas Eve in New York on WPIX, Channel 11." A grim Midwestern town is described "where yellowjackets outnumbered registered voters and probably had a higher standard of living." The mood lasts long after the reader has finished.
Takeaway: A horrific crime catalyzes desperate New Yorkers in this arresting neo-noir ensemble tale.
Great for fans of: Michael Heslin’s Meatpacking, Ernesto Quiñonez’s Chango’s Fire.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-