LOOK AT THE DARK
Secker and Warburg, 16.99
Mosley’s 1990 novel Hopeful Monsters is rightly acknowledged as a modern classic; it is therefore a melancholy duty to review this new offering. In it, an ageing anthropologist reflects on his marriages, betrayals and infatuations; as well as his intellectual preoccupations. Many of his ideas - about mutation, the sacred, and the possible future of humanity - were covered with far more subtlety and complexity in earlier novels. The pace alternates between the listless and the frenetic, and every piece of action is glossed with the words "I thought", spelling out, rather needlessly, the portentous philosophical import of the fumblings and grumblings. Read Hopeful Monsters, but forget about this.
Also try: John Banville, Shroud
STUART: A LIFE BACKWARDS
Fourth Estate, 12.99
Kierkegaard said life is lived forward but only understood retrospectively: it could serve as an epigraph for Masters’ astonishing biography of his friend Stuart Shorter; a homeless, psychotic junkie. Masters narrates Shorter’s brief life from suicide back to childhood, without falling into the therapy trap of claiming a primal cause for his problems. Rather, we see countless moments when things could have been righted. Masters writes with utter honesty - self-conscious without being self-regarding. Politically astute, Masters never reduces Stuart to a cipher for homelessness. He remains individual throughout this brave and necessary book.
Also try: Patrick Hamilton, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
Ever since Raymond Chandler, it has been de rigueur for the detective to have a complicated life. Haugaard over-does this with the eponymous Gabriel: alcoholic, bisexual, adulterous, ex-KGB, recipient of racist jibes and married to a schizophrenic. Although the jacket suggests a novel of espionage ("Would you like to buy... a nuclear submarine?"), the plot involves murdered art dealers, princes and pearly kings. Crucial details are conveniently ‘remembered’; hints of conspiracies evaporate into random grudges. Haugaard has a vivid and quirky imagination, but may need to concentrate more on fine plotting to create a memorable thriller.
Also try: Fred Vargas, Seeking Whom He May Devour