SHOVEL READY by Adam Sternbergh


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A postmodern view of a dystopian, bombed-out New York City, as recounted by Spademan, a hired assassin.

Spademan is a cynic, as any assassin worth his salt should be, but in this case, even his cynicism is tested when he’s called upon to kill the 18-year-old daughter of T. K. Harrow, a famous evangelist. (Spademan kills men and women with ease but has always drawn the line at killing children because “that’s a different kind of psycho.”) The daughter, whose name is Grace Chastity but who goes by the more appropriate name of Persephone, is an elusive figure whom Spademan needs to track down, and when he finds her, she’s five months pregnant. Her story is both horrifying and tragic, for she claims her father, the revered religious figure, is himself the father of her unborn child. Spademan finds his mission changing, for not only does he refuse to kill Chastity/Persephone, but instead decides to track down the well-protected Harrow. Along the way, he meets a raft of unsavory sociopathic types (is there any other kind?), like Simon the Magician, Harrow’s head of security, a sadist of the first order. In this bleak, futuristic world, the rich immerse themselves in virtual reality for weeks at a time while the rabble has to contend with the charred remains of Manhattan. Spademan, who used to be a garbage man, discovers that dealing with the human detritus of New York is not that different from his previous profession.

Telegraphic in style, this book is tough, sordid and definitely not for every taste.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-34899-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013


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