Brimming with delicious black wit and wildly inventive dialogue, this second novel by Grunberg (Blue Mondays) follows a hapless trio of aspiring actors living in Amsterdam. Ewald Krieg, the youngest of the three at 22, chronicles his adventures with his two cohorts, the impetuous and slightly arrogant Michaël "Broccoli" Eckstein, a self-proclaimed genius who lives off his father's charge card, and Elvira Lopez, a transplanted Argentine femme
fatale. After a series of unsatisfactory acting assignments, the three hatch Operation Brando, a plan they are certain will guarantee them Hollywood success—or at the very least, some attention in a world (and a novel) where things don't always make sense. Grunberg manages to enliven all manner of unlikely situations with his endearingly odd sense of humor, and he rounds out the cast with eccentrics like Lopatin, whose idea of a present is an open carton of coffee creamer. When Broccoli's parents attempt to sell their Amsterdam house and transport all its contents by train to Zurich, intending to start a hotel, intrigue ensues, culminating in the parents' disappearance shortly after they board the train. Meanwhile, Mr. Bercowicz, a faithful family friend, changes his name, succumbs to a mysterious illness and accuses everyone of stealing his salami. In the end, almost all the puzzles are solved, including the ever-changing romantic dynamic between Ewald, Elvira and Broccoli—disenchanted young heroes trying to make sense of a senseless world and leave their mark on it in any way they can. (Apr.)
Forecast: Grunberg burst on the scene at 22, but he can no longer claim wunderkind status. Despite the international success of Blue Mondays, the peculiar charms of his latest will be a tough sell for a large American audience.