cover image The Conversion

The Conversion

Joseph Olshan, . . St. Martin?s, $24.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37391-7

Olshan’s crisp, satisfying new novel follows American translator and author Russell Todaro, a Jewish gay man who becomes embroiled in the death and ensuing scandal of a former lover. While in France with Ed, a well-known Parisian poet, they are attacked in their hotel room by two armed men. The men mysteriously flee when Ed confronts them; then Ed dies of a heart attack the following morning. Marina, an aging literary acquaintance of Ed’s, provides a haven for Russell at Villa Guidi, her picturesque and history-laden Tuscan villa. Marina frets that the men who assaulted Russell in Paris may have been looking for her reclusive husband, Stefano, a controversial, outspoken media writer. Meanwhile, Annie, the executrix of Ed’s literary estate, demands to know the whereabouts of the autobiographical manuscript he’d spent the last 10 years penning. Russell denies he has it, though escalating momentum and melodrama converge in the novel’s denouement when Ed’s writings re-emerge and the lines of truth become blurred. Set against a plush and evocatively described European backdrop, Olshan has produced a compelling story of forbidden desire, deception, religion and love’s intoxicating allure. (Apr.)