Friday, March 20, 2009

Read Lately: The Dead Man's Brother by Roger Zelanzy

  • Roger Zelanzy may be better known for his fantasy and science fiction novels, but The Dead Man's Brother proves that he was apt at writing any genre he wanted. When this came up as the monthly release from Hard Case Crime, I was apprehensive about the selection. From what I know of the publisher, I should not have been.

  • The book starts with a murder. I feel comfortable telling you this since it happens on the first page and it is not want to book is really about. The Dead Man's Brother is the story of how that murder propels Ovid Wiley, an art thief turned art dealer, to investigate the theft of millions of dollars from the Vatican. If you're wondering those two things connect, you start to understand Zelanzy's take on the genre.

  • The novel's prose has the standard clipped noir overtones that, thankfully, never devolve into parody. The writing is so spare that some passages almost read not like an outline. While this shook me the first couple times he employed the technique, I quickly got into his style and the effect he was striving for. Zelanzy does a good job of making Wiley an interesting and likable character. Since he is the protagonist, he is the most fully realized, but the surrounding characters are not neglected.

  • When I finished the book, I knew that I enjoyed it. However, it is plain to see why it was never published in the author's lifetime. It is the good work, but I suspect it did not meet with his personal high standard.

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