“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: TAMPA by Alissa Nutting

Celeste Price, the narrator of Alissa Nutting’s debut novel Tampa (Faber & Faber, €14.99), is a high school English teacher in Florida. Married to a local police officer, Celeste is friendly, helpful and dedicated in her vocation. Respectability personified, she harbours a dark secret: Celeste has made it her life’s work to put herself in a position where she can prey sexually on 14-year-old boys. It’s a chilling tale in many respects, not least because Celeste suffers no crisis of conscience about her deviant behaviour and the effect it might have on the young men she targets, but it’s very difficult for the reader to dislike Celeste herself. Her first-person voice is charming, self-deprecating and witty, the amiable tone drawing the reluctantly complicit reader deeper and deeper into her immorality. There are echoes of Humbert Humbert and Tom Ripley to be heard here, and also Jim Thompson’s charming psychopath Lou Ford (Celeste’s husband is called Ford), but Nutting’s reinvention of the taboo-breaking femme fatale results in a self-determining female protagonist reminiscent of those created in recent years by Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott. That said, Celeste Price is a unique creation and Tampa is a singular tale. It may well be the most challenging crime novel you’ll read all year. – Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the monthly crime fiction column in the Irish Times. Also reviewed were the latest offerings from Jo Nesbo, Nele Neuhaus and Joe Joyce.

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