This enormous novel is very short and does not resemble a novel. There are some characters here, I think, but they are never fleshed out. They come as names, existentially fragile inasmuch as they are pointedly graphic (‘Gertrude, in blue ink’, ‘William, in cursive’). It would take no more than ‘a table knife or a razorblade’ to excise them from a text that wants only to call attention to textuality. Several pages are spent comparing translations of the Bible until eventually even its pictorial representations become textual: ‘Satan is often shown without a right hand – or with the letter X in its stead.’ Methodically the narrative makes an inventory of archaic vocabulary and darkly suggestive etymologies. (‘Pigeon’s bone refers to a manacle or a shackle, especially at a hanging.’) But the exacting prose in which it does so turns out to reveal nothing but its own inexactitude. What we find concealed within these falsified (read: creative) definitions is in fact an ontologically precarious murder mystery which, composed by an author for whom text is misleading and meaning unstable, comes largely resistant to spoilers. It is a case built on intimations. We are missing a killing. We are missing a crime scene. We are missing a body, too. If this information was ever put down in writing, it has since been removed. After all, it would take no more than a table knife.

Read the full piece in the Totally Dublin.

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