From Publishers Weekly
In this latest tense salvo from the author of Wounded and Erasure, Ishmael Kidder-divorced, self-loathing, and distrustful of government and restaurants-lives on a mountain outside of Taos, New Mexico, writing romance novels under the name Estelle Gilliam. When his 11-year-old daughter Lane is brutally murdered, Ishmael's already fragile world implodes, and revenge becomes his only salve. Having kidnapped and tortured the man he believes to be Lane's killer, he writes a confession and manifesto, which Everett delivers as this novel. Composed in text fragments and illustrations, Ishmael's ponderous rant covers everything from semiotics and Greek philosophy to deception and the Iraq War. Scenes of torture and grief are affecting but surprisingly few, and scant time is devoted to the captor-captive relationship, or any relationship, other than Ishmael's with words. Many of his fragments are nearly indecipherable, as he inverts sentences and misspells words to contend with the failures of language and meaning, and by extension sanity, morality and law. While Everett's aims are imaginatively and intellectually rigorous, the novel's tangle of emotion and strained logic ultimately frustrate the reader more than illuminate Ishmael's plight. The best scenes, however, relate wry but beautiful moments of civic and domestic tenderness in language that is musical and sure.
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Veteran author Everett (Wounded, 2005) melds the techniques of metafiction with a portrait of a grieving father out for revenge. When Ishmael Kidder discovers that his 11-year-old daughter, Lane, has been viciously murdered after being sexually abused, he experiences both guilt and rage. He divorced his wife and thinks that the instability he left in his wake somehow contributed to the victimization of his daughter. Although a suspect has been found, there is not enough evidence to charge him with the murder; that's when Ishmael determines to kidnap and torture the man in gruesome fashion over several days. He also appears to have a bitterly philosophical conversation with Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, speak in a Joyce-like invented language, and moderate a debate between Plato and Socrates. Pretty soon, readers will be unclear about a number of things, including whether the kidnapping and torture are real or part of a revenge fantasy. Fans of metafiction will find this a provocative exercise, but many more readers prefer their thrillers straight up, no chaser. Wilkinson, Joanne