Meeting the Minotaur

Carol Dawson, Author
Carol Dawson, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $22.95 (408p) ISBN 978-1-56512-126-3
Open Ebook - 409 pages - 978-1-61620-208-8
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Like the grossly obese protagonist of Dawson's memorable last novel, Body of Knowledge, the hero of this ambitious and fascinating narrative is one of nature's anomalies. As a result of a childhood illness, Taylor Troys has lost his equilibrium; periodically the world spins and throws him askew. Moreover, he is an outsider in the genteel society of Bernice, Tex., because he was born out of wedlock and never knew his father. Taylor's quest to uncover the secret of his paternity and his own true place in the world is patterned on the Theseus legend, but quite subtly; this is a decidedly contemporary narrative whose characters include drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, American corporate giants and their Japanese counterparts. The settings range from the slums of Dallas to its high-tech skyscrapers, from the Yucatan jungle to the border barrios of Mexico, and end in the secret underground lair of a Japanese daimyo. Dawson can write scenes that are as taut, gritty and violent as those in the best noir thrillers. By the middle of the novel, Taylor has killed a man, rescued his best friend from death and discovered his father, who is involved in a mysterious pact that obligates him to pay human ransom to a Japanese industrialist. Taylor's decision to offer himself as an apparent sacrificial victim takes him into the heart of a modern labyrinth, an underworld of revenge, corruption and betrayal. Although Dawson makes persuasive parallels between Greek mythology and the modern world, the novel lacks coherence. The first half, in which Taylor prepares for his heroic search by learning burglary methods and becoming involved in the drug culture, rings true with tension and atmospheric detail. The second, in which Taylor breaches the strongholds of corporate power, is surreal and melodramatic, presenting a jarring contrast with the tone of the previous section. Even with its flaws, however, this is the work of an intelligent writer who is a gifted storyteller. (July)
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