cover image Checker and the Derailleurs

Checker and the Derailleurs

Lionel Shriver. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.95 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14643-6

The lively bunch of 19-year-old club musicians, the Derailleurs, who animate the pages of this engaging novel, derives much of its spirit from its drummer, Checker Secretti, their philosophical and musical guru. But a rival drummer, the natty, not-quite-top-drawer Eaton Striker, is profoundly jealousy of Checker, endlessly goading the band to get out of Plato's nightclub in Astoria, Queens, and into Manhattan. Checkerblue-eyed, half Italian, half blackowns Astoria, from the arch of the Triborough to the squat Hellgate, writes songs about it, beats out its rhythms on his drums. His single-minded attention to his band and his city, however, has been deflected by Syria Paramus, a glassblower, whose person and profession knock Checker flat out. When Checker hides Rahim, an illegal-alien Iraqi, from an immigration officer and persuades Syria to marry him, Eaton, who has watched the electricity between Checker and Syria, gets to work. Intrigue begets suspicion, until Checker walks out of Plato's and over to Syria's. At this point, destruction and near-tragedy ensue. But Checker triumphant is the key, a boy so radiant that his creator (she wrote The Female of the Species) has fallen in love with him. And so has the reader. (June)