cover image The Third Hotel

The Third Hotel

Laura van den Berg. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-16835-3

In her mysterious and engrossing second novel, van den Berg (Find Me) tells the story of recently widowed elevator sales rep Clare, who travels to Havana after her horror-film scholar husband, Richard, is killed in a hit-and-run near their home in Upstate New York. The couple had planned to attend the Festival of New Latin American Cinema together, specifically to see Cuba’s first horror film, a zombie picture named Revolución Zombi, and Clare intends on seeing the trip through in Richard’s honor. Shortly after arriving at the festival, between screenings and excursions close to the novel’s titular hotel, Clare spies a man from afar who looks exactly like Richard. Though she knows it’s impossible, Clare soon becomes convinced her husband has somehow been resurrected and begins searching for him. Toying with horror tropes and conventions, and displaying shades of authors such as Julio Cortázar, van den Berg turns Clare’s journey into a dreamlike exploration of grief. This is a potent novel about life, death, and the afterlife. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)