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The secret history of Las Vegas : a novel

by by Chris Abani

Publishers Weekly Lambent prose lifts this offbeat crime novel from PEN/Hemingway Award-winner Abani (The Virgin of Flames), who effortlessly captures the essence of Sin City: "Here in Vegas the glamour beguiled and blinded all but those truly intent on seeing, and in this way the tinsel of it mocked the obsessive hope of those who flocked there." Two years after "dead homeless men had begun appearing in dumps of ten," the body dumps resume. Las Vegas PD's Detective Salazar gets a promising, if bizarre lead, when a park ranger discovers conjoined twins, who call themselves Fire and Water, near the scene of the abandoned corpses. Fire is just a body fragment consisting of a head, two arms, and a toe sticking out of his brother's torso. More important than the complicated mystery's resolution is the author's haunting examination of human cruelty, including scenes of experimentation that are almost too painful to read. Agent: Ellen S. Levine, Trident Media Group. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Instead of revolving around glitz and glamour, Abani's novel, set in contemporary Las Vegas, focuses on guilt, vengeance, and political and personal power. It brings together two very different characters: a crass, hotheaded Las Vegas detective named Salazar and Sunil Singh, originally from South Africa, who is researching psychopathic behavior for the U.S. Army. Entwined in the story are Singh's memories of apartheid South Africa, especially Soweto, where he grew up in poverty amid the political upheaval of the 1970s. The two men met previously when Salazar called on Singh to help him with a case: bodies of homeless men being dumped in a remote area of the city. That case was never solved. Now the body of a teenage girl has turned up in the same area, and Salazar is determined to reopen the case. He immediately finds two suspects . . . conjoined twins Fire and Water. When the twins stubbornly refuse to cooperate, Salazar calls on Singh to evaluate their mental health. What follows is an intricate braid of story strands, enriched by vivid descriptions, intriguingly dysfunctional ­characters, and abundant metaphors. Expect the unexpected.--Zvirin, Stephanie Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Prickly detective Salazar believes conjoined twins Water, a handsome six-footer, and Fire, a foot-long protuberance from Water's side, are responsible for mass-murder body dumps. They aren't. Salazar enlists the help of psychosis researcher Sunil Singh, a man who can ponder Lacan while making love to his prostitute girlfriend and whose past is darkened by atrocities under apartheid (and is thus being stalked by a former colleague bent on his destruction). Singh knows for certain that the twins are innocent of the body dumps (though not innocent of everything, as it turns out), because he knows who is responsible: his employer, the Institute. (Nothing is given away here that the book doesn't freely reveal.) There are many deaths and murders, most accounted for, but only one is actually "solved"-the shooting of Singh's stalker by Salazar. The book gets off to kind of a clunky start, but then the narrative takes off, and it's interesting to watch the developing relationship between Salazar and Singh right up to the fiery conclusion. VERDICT More George Pelecanos than John Grisham, Abani, PEN Beyond the Borders Award winner for Song for Night, is for those who like deep background behind the plot. Safe bet: this will be the oddest mystery of 2014.-Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.