cover image Captives


Todd Hasak-Lowy. Spiegel & Grau, $24.95 (381pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52773-6

Hasak-Lowy, author of a well-received short story collection, The Task of This Translator (2005), struggles in his debut novel, set primarily in Los Angeles. Daniel Bloom, a successful screenwriter, has trouble relating to his wife and son. As his family life crumbles, Bloom conceives a new movie idea: a nameless assassin who kills all those we love to hate-greedy CEOs, two-faced politicians, peddlers of questionable influence and various symbols of unearned privilege. It's not lost on Bloom that his brainstorm mirrors the anger and emptiness of his own life. The novel's tight setup, however, quickly unravels in a mire of half-developed characters, a baffling trip to Israel and descriptive passages and stretches of dialogue that serve little purpose. What saves the story is Bloom's wry wit and social commentary. He's a 21st-century man-in-crisis, an appealing character whose plight is, unfortunately, far too drawn out.