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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
The Man from Primrose Lane - James Renner I've puzzled over a review, not wanting to unwittingly cue or clue potential readers about the tricks up Renner's sleeves. Of course, maybe I shouldn't fret about the way a space alien is revealed to be more fecal than froggy. Because there's much more than sleight of hand going on here.

It's always neat to see a magician testdrive a new bit of stagecraft, rather than yanking the same old rabbits out of threadbare hats, sawing the same lady, stepping into the same locked cabinet only--yawn--to disappear, yet again. But the more lasting wow is in the patter, the performance, the shinola surrounding the gag and sidetracking our attention. Renner left me spellbound as much in the confident bark of his narrative voice, the sly puzzlebox structure of his telling, the pop and whistle of the book's baroque play with themes of obsession as with mere trickery.

But I won't lie: it's a helluva trick, too. Renner's "prestige" is as nifty as Christopher Priest's. It begins with a locked-room mystery, an eccentric be-mittened neighborhood stalker found dead in his home, a gunshot in his chest, and all his fingers severed in a blender (and blended) in his kitchen. From there we follow a true-crime writer drawn to the case, and down the rabbithole we go. It's a great, smart read. I thought a little of Priest, of David Gerrold's Man Who Folded Himself, of my first time reading Thomas Harris--books that surprised me. As a longtime fan of narrative magic, I've seen a lot of tricks, and I'm more than happy to concentrate instead on the performance... but when I get surprised I want to shout--hey, what about that, huh?!

I am keeping mum, though. (And, okay, even the spoiler up above will spoil nothing. But just in case.). Just go read it.