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Criminals: A Novel Paperback – August 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (August 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312424698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424695
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,163,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Criminals is a tweaked gothic. Instead of a dark castle, there is an average Scottish farmhouse, Mill of Fortune. There is nothing supernatural, and the love story is all in one character's mind, nearly losing him his livelihood. Ewan is less a knight-at-arms than a London businessman, and his sister is the madwoman. Mollie, however, is not in the attic, but very much up and about after her novelist-lover has left her. Ewan knows he must check on her and heads for Scotland. During a bus layover, he hears a small whimper and is amazed to find a baby in a bathroom stall. Hearing his bus about to leave, he grabs the bundle and ends up taking it with him.

Unfortunately, Mollie's reaction is not one he had hoped for: instead of calling the police, she lays siege, and their criminal career begins. Margot Livesey is clearly interested in exploring one question: How much do you really know about your family? For six chapters, the narration goes back and forth between brother and sister, but the seventh is a surprise--devoted to the man who left the baby on the filthy floor. Kenneth's thought processes are sinister and idiotic, giving him a great deal of comic energy. Having followed Ewan to Mill of Fortune, he is determined to bilk him out of as much money as possible. "Ideas, he thought, I am an ideas man." As Kenneth does his brutal best and Ewan is caught up in insider-trading complications, Mollie--still hanging onto the child--grows increasingly paranoid: "She heard something. Had Ewan spoken? Had the table? She examined each in turn. The sleek wood had grown oddly smug and duplicitous ..." Livesey is an expert practitioner of the fiction of threat, the novel of isolation and misery in which the family is a nest of sorrows. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Banker finds Baby in Bus station" is the caption that uptight London bachelor Ewan Munro ruefully realizes will describe events in this intriguing novel about the banality of evil. Discovering a swaddled infant in a lavatory stall in Perth, Ewan almost absentmindedly takes the baby to his unstable sister, Mollie Lafferty, intending to call the authorities once he arrives at her home. Mollie is in a bad way; she has split with her novelist husband, anguished because he has fictionalized her in his current novel, and, she thinks, given away secrets she didn't even realize she harbored. (Chunks of this novel are interpolated as Ewan reads it, adding tension to a narrative already taut with frightening implications.) For Mollie now recognizes that her great need is to have a child, and she conspires to keep the baby. Meanwhile, the child's feckless father, an amoral layabout called Kenneth, who has impetuously abandoned his daughter, realizes that he can extort money when he shows up to claim her; and her mother, a nurse from Bombay, becomes distraught at the infant's disappearance. Scottish-born Livesey (Homework) controls the narrative with assurance, gradually laying bare the bedrock of her characters' inner lives. One reads with fascinated attention as Ewan and Mollie?he preoccupied by a lapse in his meticulously moral behavior that has made him complicit in illegal trading; she sliding into emotional breakdown?discover how easy it is to become criminals. Livesey maintains a low-key style that perfectly matches the way ordinary lives can slip into chaos; her elegantly simple prose, her control of pacing and characterization and her insights into human behavior combine to produce a fascinating narrative. 50,000 first printing; Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Margot Livesey is the acclaimed author of the novels The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and The Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Livesey was born in Scotland and grew up on the edge of the Highlands. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on September 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
This incredible book awed me. I still haven't been able to get it out
of my mind. Having read The Missing World, I wanted to get my hands on
another Margot Livesey book. Her beautiful language is filled with
dark humor and disturbing scenes. Criminals is about selfishness and
what it takes to do the right thing. On his way to visit his
emotionally imbalanced sister, Ewan finds a baby in a bathroom at a
bus station. Frantic, he takes the baby with him. He figures that once
he's settled at his sister's house he'd be able to report the missing
baby. Little does he know that it is all part of a man's scheme to
make a profit. To make matters worse, his sister becomes emotionally
and psychologically attached to the infant. There are many disturbing
and engrossing moments in the novel, especially its disarming and
surprising conclusion. This is one of the most memorable psychological
thrillers I have ever read. There's a thin line between good and evil
and moral and criminal behavior in the story. Are you searching for a
suspenseful and literary thriller? Look no further. Criminals is a
book that will keep you turning the pages in the wee hours of the
night.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on December 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
CRIMINALS is my second experience with the fine writing of Margot Livesey -- her newest, EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE, drew me in. The threads of this story are delightfully convoluted -- the fact that one of the characters is a weaver may be an unintentional metaphor, but I suspect Ms. Livesey knew exactly what she was doing in assigning her that activity.
There are many issues addressed by both the story and the people who populate it so vividly. Honesty, in many guises and forms, is chief among them -- honesty in work, in relationships with family and lovers, with ourselves, and, ultimately, with the law. Some of the characters learn from the events that transpire here -- some do not.

There are three main branches of plot in this novel -- and one of them is a book within the book...
Ewan Munro, a respected banker, on his way to visit his sister Mollie in Scotland -- who is obviously distraught over her recent separation from her lover of several years -- finds a baby in a roadside mens' room, apparently abandoned. Through a series of good intentions and botched attempts to communicate his find, he winds up bringing it with him to his sister's home. In her pain and anguish, she latches onto the baby with all of her emotions, as a virtual lifeline to the world -- and it's a tether she is terrified to break.
We also see the story develop from the perspective of Kenneth, a young n'er-do-well, looking out for no one but himself, caring not a whit for the feelings or well-being of his girlfriend -- or her child. When any emotions arise within him to cast doubt on the worth of his devious schemes, he douses them with alcohol and rationalization.
Against this action is cast the novel-within-the-novel -- written by Mollie's departed lover.
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
When a yuppie banker finds an abandoned baby girl on the floor of a bus station restroom, he ignites the passions, greed, and madness that were lying just beneath of the surface of seemingly ordinary lives. As we watch helplessly, the situation slowly spirals out of control, and the characters' carelessness, secrets, and lies lead inevitably to tragedy. Livesey shows us that we are all criminals waiting for the right set of circumstances to reveal our crimes. I enjoyed this book thoroughly and would recommend it. Not exactly a mystery, or even a thriller, it is a well-written, intelligent, and suspenseful novel which I COULD put down but looked forward to picking up again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Livesey manages to make her readers question themselves; there is more than one ethical dilemma in this book. A baby is found, and taken care of by Ewan who has the best intentions. Only, his sister Mollie who is somewhat mentally imbalanced gets emotionally attached to the baby and manages through different logistical means to delay the report of the found baby to the police. Ewan has some problems of his own, too; he was a little bit careless about information that he revealed to somebody. There is a fine line between what you can and cannot do. Circumstances can arise that you had not (previously) thought of.
Somehow, it is apparent, the margins must be on your side. Anybody can become a criminal. Anybody can also become a victim. The point is that it takes only so little of a false step to make your life altogether different from what it was. Human beings constantly interact, and it is impossible to foresee all implications of your actions.
Livesey writes in a very interesting genre. This is a psychological thriller, but the focus is neither on the plot, nor on the solution. This is not a novel about being good or bad; it is a novel about understanding of the human mind. We are all human beings, and thus, we make mistakes. Sometimes we have to pay dearly for them. Sometimes somebody else has to pay dearly for them. This novel shows the need for understanding and forgiveness.
Livesey writes in a way that is not condemning, more exploring. What would happen if situation X arised? I, as a reader, was very much intrigued by the result. She also uses traditional literary techniques such as writing pieces of another book within this novel. The result is well worth penetrating.
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