WORD MADE FLESH by Jack O'Connell


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Once again, O’Connell (The Skin Palace, 1996, etc.) tests the boundaries of noir mystery/suspense in this latest mind-boggling installment from Quinsigamond, Mass. Here’s the story: A cabbie named Gilrein, who left the police force three years ago after his wife and colleague Ceil was killed in a raid on a bomb factory, picks up Leonardo Tani, a mid-level fence he’s driven many times before, for what turns out to be his last ride. Tani falls afoul of a business rivalry between Hermann Kinsky, the unofficial mayor of the Bohemian Wing, and his aspiring lieutenant August Kroger, and gets taken out of the picture in the churningly vivid opening scene. Everyone involved, especially Kroger, is convinced Gilrein’s in possession of a mysterious book missing from Tani’s possession. Kroger and his creatures apply pressure. Jack responds by looking for the book. Now here’s why you should take that familiar story with a grain of salt: Everyone in Quinsigamond is obsessed with horrors from the past. Gilrein can’t forget the events that led up to Ceil’s death. Otto Langer, the ventriloquist who drives a cab alongside Gilrein, is haunted by the Holocaustic sufferings of a girl named Alicia at the hands of Meyrink, the Censor of Maisel. Gilrein’s ex-lover Wylie Brown, a former cop who’s now serving as Kroger’s librarian and archivist, ceaselessly gathers information about Quinsigamond legend Edgar Carwin Brockden, a visionary who killed his family and himself before any of the current cast were born. Inspector Emil Lacazze, the Jesuit who founded the Dunot Precinct’s Eschatology Squad, lives to perfect the Methodology by which he bores into the hearts of the criminals he hunts. All of them, as O’Connell makes clear, are trapped in the inability of language to communicate, and the agonizing need to act out their messages instead of speaking or writing them. Under the conventions of crime and punishment, O’Connell’s nightmarishly original vision of incarnation unflinchingly displays the various of harrowing ways words can indeed be made flesh.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-019209-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999


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