New Zealand author Taylor’s first US publication is the tale of a dead man, narrated by the late Ellerslie Penrose as he lies on the sidewalk after crashing through a window atop the Regent Hotel.
When he was alive, Penrose made his home in the heart of Auckland’s financial district, in an office building where residential occupancy is strictly illegal, with painted-over windows to hide his forbidden bed-and-bath. An investment planner by day, he would prowl the city by night, on foot or in his restored Tomaso coupe, passing the hours at the Regent bar reliving the glories of Magnum, P.I. with Tony the bartender, or giving Wilhelmina the waitress a quick tumble. Daylight would bring him to the Apollo, a tiny café offering BREAKFAST LUNCH JUICE. But one morning, his breakfast is delayed by yellow tape stretched across Insurance Alley. A man lies slashed to ribbons in a recycling bin filled with glass, and Penrose, mistaken for a cop, ventures into the crime scene and pockets a wallet identifying the corpse as Tad Ash, of Ash Antiques. Tad’s twin brother Dede, his surviving partner, shows Penrose Tad’s latest and most mysterious treasure—a diary written on phenakistascope disks, detailing the early life of Drew Palmer, a boy who escaped miraculously from death in a train crash nearly a hundred years earlier. The twin poles of Palmer’s life and Ash’s death pull Penrose into an obsessive search for the truth. But the deeper he looks into the past, the more his own life becomes unmoored: He loses his clients’ money, his beloved Tomaso is damaged by tow-truck jockeys, he’s beaten nearly senseless by prostitutes distraught over the death of their madam, and of course there’s the problem his story began with.
Taylor creates strong, sometimes sexually graphic, images at the expense of logical narrative, as natural and supernatural explanations compete to the very end.