Buy This Book: The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

I love a book that travels with me. I read Remains of the Day on a trip to London, The Big Sleep in a hotel on Sunset Blvd, Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, last fall in Paris. I purposely saved The Singer’s Gun for my trip to Italy last month. From the flap:
Anton Waker travels to the Island of Ischia, off the coast of Italy, and waits, for what he does not know. As his past is peeled back, layer by layer, we learn that he is not what he seems and that no one in his life is without a secret.
Trying to describe the plot of this novel would be like trying to describe the train trip from Rome to Messina. On one side, there’s the Mediterranean. Shades of blue you didn’t know existed. On the other side, there’s green mountains, soaring cliffs, people making the best and worst of good and bad circumstances. As you travel along, you see layer upon layer of history exposed.

The Singer’s Gun takes you for that same sort of ride. Emily St. John Mandel’s writing is elegant and full of surprises, but the story is as serviceable and unstoppable as cars on rails. Great hardboiled suspense provides a sturdy bone structure for lush tangents, rich dialogue, and ghostly apparitions. She plunges you into a dark tunnel every now and then, but just when you start wondering, there’s a blinding flash of light.

Anton Waker grew up watching his parents fence stolen goods and continued the family tradition with his cousin Aria, selling fake credentials to illegal aliens in New York City. He makes a genuine effort to leave all this behind, lands a respectable job (with a fake diploma from Harvard), and marries his longtime girlfriend (while having an affair with his secretary). His past follows him on the honeymoon to Italy. Aria won’t let go, Anton’s new wife can’t hold on, and things go downhill from there. Meanwhile, Alexandra Broden, a State Department investigator, has been assiduously building a case against the Wakers. She’s closing in and plans to start knocking heads as soon as she pins down exactly how Anton figures into the scheme of things. Anton’s struggle to untie this knot is an exploration of the cost/benefit analyses that go into every choice we make in life. The mystery is as much about human hearts as it is about human heists. Every character is layered with history.

The Singer's Gun begins with Agent Broden listening to a recorded phone call from an Italian cell to a tapped land line in New York. A woman picks up. A man says, “It’s done.”

The last thing you suspect is the story that unfolds.

Click here to read an excerpt on the author's website.

Or here to download a free sample on Kindle.

Or better, yet, just buy right now from IndieBound.

And watch this space tomorrow. Fred has 3Qs for Emily St. John Mandel. I already know they'll be good ones.


Joni, thank you for this review! I truly appreciate the kind words, and I'm glad you enjoyed the book.
Joni Rodgers said…
My pleasure, Emily. Hope everything's great out on tour.


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