A man who’s hired to dig up the bodies becomes one himself in this sly novella from Booker-winner John Banville’s alter ego Black (The Silver Swan, 2008, etc.).
John Glass used to be an honored journalist, but now that he’s just a rich woman’s husband, he’s in no position to accept his father-in-law’s invitation to write his biography. Since he’s in no position to offend “Big Bill” Mulholland either, he agrees, then turns around and asks researcher Dylan Riley to help unearth facts about Mulholland, the ex-CIA Cold Warrior who runs a cable corporation. No sooner has the disconcerting young man agreed to help Glass out without letting his father-in-law know than he’s on the phone, insinuating that the family secret he’s discovered is worth half the hefty fee Mulholland is paying Glass. Before Glass can get over his initial panic—he’s certain that Riley has found out about Glass’s affair with painter Alison O’Keeffe—he’s getting an even more disturbing phone call from Captain Ambrose of the NYPD, who’s identified Glass’s number as the last one Riley called before he was shot to death. Glass’s petty adultery pales before the secret Riley actually discovered, one that will entangle Big Bill’s entire family before it’s finally laid to rest.
If the book’s big secret doesn’t quite live up to its press notices, Black’s prose is so mesmerizing—crisp, precise, alive with telling details—that you’ll enjoy every step in the trail that leads there.