From Publishers Weekly
The last novel of the late Dunne, who died in December 2003, reads rather like a smorgasbord of his previous nonfiction work doused with a heavy sauce of "ripped from the headlines" plotlines. The central narrative, which concerns the trial of Duane Lajoie for the supposedly racially motivated torture and murder of a black man, Edgar Parlance, in a Great Plains state referred to as South Midland, is garnished with observations (like the comment about Midlanders "with 56-inch waists, the product of bad weather, too little exercise, too much television, and too much sugar-saturated junk food") echoing Dunne's famous New Yorker
story about the murder of Brandon Teena in Nebraska. Max Cline is a jaundiced ex-prosecutor-gay, Jewish and unsentimental-hired to be part of Duane Lajoie's defense team. Teresa Kean, Duane's chief attorney, is a former victims' rights advocate. Duane's legal fees are being covered by his half sister, Carlyle, a rich, famous and wildly spoiled model. The trial is an echt-American carnival of media bunkum, with the prosecutor's Ann Coulter-esque wife, Poppy McClure, trying to milk it for political advantage; Carlyle using it as a career booster; Kean and Max trying to manage their over-the-top client; and Max trying to penetrate the cool surface of Kean's demeanor to reveal the secret that animates her. Dunne loads his story with wonderful phrases, but his satire of Midwestern yahoos and the various creepy and cretinous habits of the rich and newsworthy is a bit too dyspeptic to be penetrating. This fast read is a lesser coda to a career rich in better fictions, such as True Confessions
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is Dunne’s last novel—he recently died at 71—and most reviewers found it a fitting end to an illustrious career. Its opening chapters may weigh the reader down a bit with details and character introductions, but when the narrative takes off, it proves well worth the wait. Critics praised Dunne’s ability to combine riveting storytelling with dead-on social commentary. A few found Nothing Lost
too caustic for comfort, the sharpness of Dunne’s satire destroying the novel’s emotional impact. For most, however, it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, the work of a keen observer whose insight will be missed.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.