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FAMINE by Todd Komarnicki


by Todd Komarnicki

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1997
ISBN: 1-55970-365-2
Publisher: Arcade

 A high-toned, high-concept investigation into the death from starvation of a troubled New York arch-romantic. The dead man is Daniel Rowan, whose troubles start early, when he accidentally kills his kid brother as a teenager. Unable to handle his family's inability to deal with him, Daniel sinks into a depression that brings him to River Glen and to the desirable Emma Clough, where he struggles to make out through his and her double haze of prescription drugs. Equally disturbed but considerably more manic--she sets fire to their apartment and introduces herself to Daniel's sister Nina by smashing everything she can reach before she's tossed out--Emma is cursed with her own obsessive love for her daughter Sophie, whom she tirelessly insists, whatever vicissitudes Emma shares with Daniel, is just waiting to be born. So much for the victim and his family, who seem even more marginal than the homeless hero of Komarnicki's first novel, Free (1993). But wait: The police detective on the case--called Detective, to distinguish him from his jaundiced partner Rookie--seems just as weird as the dead man, whose corpse he feels obliged, even before the coroner arrives on the scene, to slit from sternum to navel, glossing this tableau with the delphic comment that he's ``connecting two, at least two murders.'' Murders follow, all right, but in what sense is Daniel's own demented starvation a murder? As Komarnicki zigzags between a modish third-person account of Detective's investigations and Daniel's comparatively sane first-person reminiscences of the adventures that brought him to his resting place in Gramercy Park, the conundrums pile up (what to make of the notes signed ``Emma and Sophie,'' or the mantra ``Daniel knows who did it''?), along with a certain tonic skepticism about how completely they'll ever be solved. Fans of Paul Auster will find this beautifully written, with syncopated prose massaged within an inch of its life. The unwashed may want to tread more carefully.