A detective on the brink of retirement and a psychiatrist with a guilty burden are brought together by a series of deaths in Las Vegas in this grim but beautifully written tale.
Detective Salazar, of the Las Vegas Police, has a habit of revisiting scenes of unsolved crimes. When one such scene becomes active again, he arrests conjoined twins who were bathing in Lake Mead near a drum leaking blood. The twins are Water Esau Grimes, a full-sized man who spouts factoids, and Fire Jacob Grimes, a tiny appendage who does most of the talking for both. To justify keeping them in custody, Salazar calls for an evaluation from Dr. Sunil Singh, a psychiatrist with the nearby Desert Palms Institute. Singh is conducting studies in psychopathic behavior, but he doesn’t find it in either of the twins. He and Salazar form a mismatched duo themselves: The uncouth Salazar builds and burns miniature ships to commemorate the people he killed on duty; South African–born Sunil’s insight and compassion mask a secret present and a bloody past. A man seeking revenge against Singh and a revelation about the twins lead to an unexpected ending.
Abani (The Virgin of Flames, 2007, etc.) creates vivid metaphors not just with his characters, but also with a drowned town emerging from the waters of Lake Mead, a ghost town that hosts the Carnival of Lost Souls, and the city of Las Vegas, which celebrates the dark, the hidden and the grotesque.