2 April 2013

Roger Zelazny, The Dead Man’s Brother, 2009

Written circa 1970 and only discovered long after Zelazny’s passing, this mainstream novel remained unpublished until Hard Case Crime were offered the manuscript, at which point it was snapped up and released as the mass-market paperback it could have been at the time it was written. Ovid Wiley is an art dealer with a shady past, and when a dead body turns up at his office he’s offered a kind of amnesty in return for a small favour to the CIA. Except that that favour leads him where he doesn’t expect, first via the Vatican to gather information on a heist, then on further to a dangerous adventure in Brazil’s Amazon jungle. If I was offered a blind ‘taste test’ of which genre author had written this I’d have probably gone for Zelazny, such is his way with language in general and dialogue in particular. That the subject matter is so unlike what we normally associate with Zelazny is one of the fascinating aspects of the novel, others being how Zelazny allows Wiley to be a far more reliable narrator than he perhaps deserves to be, and the structure to the novel that allows the reader to rethink what has gone before in pursuit of some questions that remain unanswered by the end, more or less putting the reader in the same position as Wiley himself.  PY


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