cover image Wonderful World

Wonderful World

Javier Calvo, , trans. from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. . Harper, $27.95 (470pp) ISBN 978-0-06-155768-2

Calvo's first novel to appear in English is a frenetic and magnificent mashup of family drama, mob revenge story and surreal mystery featuring a gigantic enforcer obsessed with comic books, a 12-year-old girl fixated on Stephen King, a “namby-pamby” antiques dealer on a mad quest and a crime lord with a penchant for women's coats. Thirty years ago, Barcelona antiques dealer Lorenzo Girault was imprisoned for shady dealings. Now, his son, Lucas, insinuates himself into the seedy underworld to discover who was responsible for his father's ruin. While conspiring with Mr. Bocanegra, the crooked proprietor of a strip club, and Iris Gonzalvo, a failed actress, Lucas simultaneously combats his mother's efforts to usurp his share in the family business and watches after his disturbed young neighbor and only friend, Valentina Parini. Lucas's adventure is overlaid with a portentous “filial dream” and portions of a fictitious Stephen King novel that may hold clues to his father's fate, creating a rich and complex structure. The expansive cast can sometimes be difficult to sort out, but its quirks allow Calvo to set up a fast-moving narrative overflowing with hilarious situations. (Mar.)