If Anne Rice, Patrick White, and David Lynch had gotten together (unlikely, but think of the possibilities), they might have had a few drinks and concocted something like this crazily overstuffed fourth novel from the New Zealand author (Billie’s Kiss, 2002, etc.).
Call it magical realism noir. For mysteries begin proliferating when Australian policeman Brian “Bad” Phelan, recovering on vacation near the French-Italian border from injuries sustained while defusing a bomb, helps retrieve a drowned woman’s body from a sea cave—and notices her identical resemblance to a woman he’d met years before, in disturbingly similar circumstances. Things go quickly from bad to worse. The embattled cop seeks information about the dead woman, Martine Dardo, possibly the daughter of Blessed Mother Martine Raimondi, a heroine of WWII’s Italian partisans murdered by the Nazis. Even more confusing appearances (magnified by Knox’s turgid conflations of past with present) are made by Father Daniel Octave, who’s investigating Raimondi’s qualifications for sainthood; scholar Eve Moskelutz (whose specialty is the libidinous aristocrat Marquis de Chambord, author of the popular romance Daylight); the widow of noted painter Jean Ares; Eve’s twin sister Dawn, a frequently unclad seductress who enjoys biting other people’s tongues; the decapitated body of a former beneficiary of one of Mother Martine’s “miracles”; and a soulful vampire named Lou Ila, who knows the secrets most of these folks and their acquaintances and lovers have been concealing for years (if not centuries). This bizarre narrative impasto, at times as entertaining as it is certifiably insane, eventually does reach a resolution of sorts, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—not that the battle-fatigued reader really expects it to.
Compared with this, Knox’s earlier fictional premises (a mortal’s love affair with an angel, for example) seem like kitchen-sink realism. What’s next? Waltzing Matilda as a punk priestess of Ishtar?