Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Dead Hand - Paul Theroux

I enjoy Paul Theroux's non-fiction travel books, and I have a tendency to like everything about India for reasons I cannot explain. Recently, I've been on a mystery kick. So, when I saw this book - a fictional murder mystery set in Calcutta by Theroux, I had to check it out. This is a strange little story about a writer, suffering from writer's block (a dead hand), who receives a letter from a philanthropist asking for his help solving a possible crime. Unable to resist, the writer follows up and finds himself obsessed with the woman who sent him the note - a pretentious and bossy woman, who runs a foundation in Calcutta and is a master in all things tantric. Eager to please her, the writer begins to investigate the strange crime, but can make little headway and finds himself more deeply confused and disoriented the harder he tries. Theroux himself makes an appearance in the book, and a witty yet seemingly irrelevant dialogue between the two writers takes place. Ultimately, there isn't much mystery here in terms of a typical murder detective story - and that's kind of what I was looking for. But, the writing is good - and given the India setting, Theroux was able to show off his travel writing expertise.

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