Tuesday, June 14, 2011
THE SINGER'S GUN by Emily Mandel (2010) Unbridled Books, 285 pages
Emily Mandel beguiled me with her debut novel LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, so I was delighted to pick up a copy of THE SINGER'S GUN, a story rife with betrayal, half-told truths and narrative drive that will give you whiplash.
Protagonist Anton Waker finally gets married to his reticent long time cellist-playing fiancee Sophie. Though raised by criminal parents about whom he never doubted their abiding love, Anton has attempted to set his work life straight by abandoning the family business and working as a middle manager for an insurance company in New York. However, Agent Broden has been tailing Anton and his cousin Aria for years and his luck is just about to run out.
While honeymooning with Sophie on the island of Ischia (and not wanting to involve her in the professional trouble that he feels is coming and his due), Anton suggests that they "should be apart for a while, not a long while, just maybe a couple of weeks." Sophie responds as you'd hope she would by hailing a taxi and claiming, "I carry my passport in my handbag and you can dispose of my luggage as you see fit."
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, Anton's former secretary Elena, "who he'd secretly been in love with since he'd met her under criminal circumstances two and a half years earlier," is dodging Agent Broden's questions that just might implicate her in Anton's previously nefarious life. That's not the only threat that Anton faces, though. His insistent former business partner Aria (who also happens to be his first cousin) has involved him in a final business deal that seems simple enough on the surface (give a marked envelope to a stranger), but will have an unanticipated ripple effect on the rest of his life.
Mandel is an intelligent and convincing writer whose clean prose style will make you understand how each well placed word matters.