Friday, April 11, 2014

"… upended genre conventions”

“A brilliant eccentric is found dead. The police dismiss it as a suicide, but the man’s lover is convinced it was murder and will stop at nothing to discover the truth. Can our scrappy protagonist trust anyone, even her own family? Is a stolen painting the key to unlocking the plot’s multiplying mysteries? Is Trotsky’s variant of Marxism incompatible with the exceptionalism of the individual championed by Aleister Crowley? Up until that last question we had a comfortably familiar crime fiction narrative ready for bed, but then along comes Nick Mamatas to kick over the cradle.
     Our narrator is Dawn, a punk rocker in her late teens. Her idle voyeurism into the lives of her Long Island neighbors leads her to Bernstein, a mystic living in a shack. Bernstein is ostensibly the victim here, but given the particulars of her situation it’s Dawn who we feel for. Bernstein’s dead on page one, whereas Dawn is saddled with a demented grandmother, menaced by a basehead father and a girl who looks strangely like her, and surrounded by a tightening net of too-interested strangers. […]
     Love is the Law is not the first time Mamatas has upended genre conventions with his instantly recognizable style, but it may be his most accomplished effort yet. Not because it’s less ambitious than his previous novels (it isn’t), or because it’s more straightforward (though it is). No, what makes Love is the Law such an exemplary achievement is that here at last Mamatas has struck a nigh-perfect balance amongst all the disparate elements he draws together. In the past, the jarring clash of this narrative flourish with that contemplative aside was all part of the rough-and-tumble charm, but here the pieces all slide smoothly into place…no mean feat, considering how ambiguous it is in places.”
— Jesse Burlington, Los Angeles Review of Books
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