I’ve been reviewing Duane Swierczynski‘s books for Booklist since The Wheel Man (2005). Of that one, I wrote, “Fast-moving and funny, The Wheel Man is a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in an R-rated amusement park.” Since then, I have struggled, with only modest success, to find different ways of describing his books as being fast-moving, funny, and fun to read. (I have used the word adrenaline more than once, I admit.) His latest, Fun and Games, comes out next month and . . . whoops, there’s the A-word again. But the review starts like this: “Swierczynski’s books are like cage matches, where a small cast of characters with everything to lose is locked in for a fight to the finish.” And, reader, believe me, I mean that as a complement.
I asked the author to share the best book he’s read in the last year and he threw a bit of a curveball. Yes, it’s blistering, but it’s still offbeat. Here it is, straight from Swierczynski’s, er, keyboard.
You don’t often find a slow-burn, textured character study (complete with meditations on chemistry, physics and, cosmology) that is also a blazing page turner—but then again, you don’t often find a writer like Jim Nisbet. In his Dark Companion, Banerjhee Rolf is a middle-aged scientist, recently downsized by his pharmaceutical company; Toby Pride is his scuzbag drug-dealing neighbor. Now you may think you know where this is going . . . annnnd you would be wrong. So many of the wonderful surprises are packed within both characters, revealed one onion-skin layer at a time, and by the time Nisbet stomps his foot on the accelerator, you realize you’re trapped in a world where there’s roiling chaos in the heavens, death lurking at the microscopic level, and of course, a serious amount of bad luck on earth—all in 144 blistering pages. If noir is about a lone man making his way through a hostile universe, then Nisbet’s masterful Dark Companion takes us to the outer reaches.
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