“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.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Review: PARADIME by Alan Glynn
That glancing reference to Philip K. Dick evokes the recurring theme of paranoid conspiracy that has run like a seam through Alan Glynn’s work since the publication of his debut, The Dark Fields, in 2002. His subsequent novels, the ‘globalisation trilogy’ of Winterland (2009), Bloodland (2011) and Graveland (2013), were set in that shadowy vector where capitalism corrupts democracy, and Paradime continues in a similar vein. When it appears that Danny is planning to blow the whistle on Gideon Logistics, the contractor operating at the Afghani military base where two service personnel were murdered during a riot, Danny is threatened with public disgrace, financial ruin and a prison sentence. It’s a scenario familiar to any fan of the classic ’70s tales of paranoid conspiracy – Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View – but it’s at this point that Glynn introduces his joker in the pack, when Danny meets Teddy Trager, a billionaire tech visionary and Danny’s doppelgänger. Danny becomes obsessed with Trager, mimicking his dress and speech – a man with nothing to lose fixated on the man who has it all.
It seems like an odd narrative gambit at first, the timeless motif of the doppelgänger – which has its roots in ancient Egyptian folklore – initially a jarring presence in Danny and Trager’s gleaming, futuristic world of Manhattan’s Silicon Alley. It’s a gamble that pays off handsomely, however, as Glynn emphasises the Gothic horror of being confronted with the ‘billion-to-one’ shot of your perfect double, with Glynn evoking Edgar Allan Poe and Dostoevsky’s The Double as Danny struggles to come to terms with a life lived in the mirror, darkly. Traditionally, in literary terms, a paranormal harbinger of doom, the appearance of his doppelgänger initially appears to be a stroke of outrageous good fortune for Danny, although soon he is contemplating the existential nightmare of seeing himself reflected in, and refracted through, his awareness of his own essential truth.
An enthralling psychological thriller-cum-tragedy on a personal level, then, Paradime is also a blackly comic tale as Danny finds himself swimming with the sharks who dominate the highest echelons of power and finance. The illusion created by extraordinary wealth is that the one-percenters are different, special, superior – but if any old Tom, Dick or Danny can play the part (treated as a genius and guru, Danny finds himself meeting Bill Clinton and George Clooney, and being interviewed on Charlie Rose) then the edifice is built on even shakier foundations than even the cynical, suspicious and mentally unbalanced Danny could have suspected …
As with all great novels, Paradime raises more questions than it answers. Is Danny, our Everyman, a ‘puppet with a soul’ plodding along in a noir-ishly predetermined universe? Or is he that most fascinating of literary creations, the character bound by Fate but determined to rebel, regardless of personal cost, against the chains that bind? All told, it’s a pulsating tale from one of the most inventive practitioners working in contemporary crime fiction, a novel that pounds to the rhythms of the conventional thriller but employs the thriller’s tropes to divert its protagonist, and the reader, down some very unusual dark alleyways. ~ Declan Burke
This review was first published in the Irish Times.