cover image Left-Handed Gunman

Left-Handed Gunman

Benjamin Prado, Prado. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20084-8

Three aimless Barcelona misfits orbit around a fourth, Israel Lacasa, who disappears under ambiguous circumstances. That is the thin hook upon which Spaniard Prado hangs his American debut. The suspects are Gaizka, an ex-boxer and Israel's slavish protege; Sara, Israel's childhood friend and ex-lover; and Blueberry, another childhood friend and Israel's rival for Sara's heart. In spare, surreal prose loaded with allusions literary (Kafka, Pound, Chester Himes, Jim Thompson), cinematic (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Frankenstein) and musical (Elvis, the Sex Pistols), each character describes a different facet of the enigmatic Israel. No straight lines are drawn in the elliptical, multilayered portrait that emerges of an engaging nonconformist struggling against the effects of a horrific childhood. Prado himself appears as a detective in the final segment of his quirky novel to offer a variety of interpretations and solutions--it's up to the reader to decide if a crime has even been committed. Less mystery than pop-culture adventure, Prado's abstract story line offers sharply etched characters and amusing scenes but lacks the suspense necessary to pull the reader into the game. (Jan.)