cover image Hawthorn & Child

Hawthorn & Child

Keith Ridgway. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2166-5

The London we encounter in Ridgway's (Animals) unsettling new novel is a city of mystery, a cloud of fog which allows few glimpses of clarity%E2%80%94despite the many attempts at crime-solving made by the two police detective protagonists. The book reads like a collection of short stories, unified only by the continuing presence of the police partners, a crime lord named Mishazzo, and an atmosphere in which answers are always just out of reach. Characters, with varying levels of criminality, appear and disappear: a man shot by someone in a vintage car no one else witnesses; a potentially psychopathic editor who obsesses over a strange fantasy manuscript; a pickpocket; a daughter in the throes of her first sexual relationship. In spite of the book's general obscurity, two protagonists are fully realized, intriguing characters: exact opposites, one black, straight, good-looking, and secure; the other white, gay, and neurotic. Their appearance is always a welcome moment within each chapter. Ridgway's writing is beautiful, sardonic, and well-contained. A detective novel with many crimes and few solutions concerned more with human connection (or lack thereof) than cases and clues, Ridgway's book is successfully thought-provoking and haunting. (Sept.)