Book Review: The Vices, Lawrence Douglas

The VicesThe Vices by Lawrence Douglas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like a flame to moths, philandering philosopher Oliver Vice is irresistible. He is also enigmatic, inscrutable, and narcissistic. But is he suicidal?

The Vices opens with Oliver’s death, a dramatic finish in the swirling waters of the north Atlantic into which Oliver pitched, or was pitched, from the Queen Mary II. The narrator who investigates Oliver’s final days remains cleverly unnamed, though he is at the story’s heart. Indeed, his is the heart that pulses for Oliver’s for the length of this story, as he explores Oliver’s life in search of an explanation for his death.

It is also an examination of obsession and identity, of forgery and fraud. And it’s wrapped up in a delicious package of bright language and fascinating characters, chock full of wit and thrills, layered with humor and melancholy. It was a pleasure to partake of this sometimes zany, sometimes poignant work of fiction.

Lawrence Douglas is a writer new to me. His style brings to mind the precisely-crafted novels of Michael Frayn, Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, and Russell Banks. I love his way with words, the economy of phrase that turns smartly on a crisp heel, yet provides rich imagery “…a bald homunculus crawled toward her on the concrete floor…and curled nautiluslike at her feet..” Yes, I had to look up “homunculus.” I dig learning new words. I dig this book.

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