cover image The Lemon

The Lemon

S.E. Boyd. Viking, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-49044-0

This uneven debut satire from Boyd, a pen name for journalists Kevin Alexander and Joe Keohane and editor Alessandra Lusardi, centers on the death of an Anthony Bourdain–like TV personality named John Doe. After Doe dies accidentally in a Belfast hotel room from autoerotic asphyxiation, his close confidant, chef Paolo Cabrini, and his agent, Nia Greene, spin Doe’s death as a suicide, determined to keep any “salacious” elements out of the story. As the news breaks, a small army of opportunists latch onto the narrative. In Nevada, Doe’s old chef pal Patrick Whelan sets his sights on taking over Doe’s television program. In New York, low-level blogger Katie Horatio publishes a viral post in which she falsely claims to have recently shared a meal with Doe. And in Belfast, hotel employee Charlie McCree snaps a photo of Doe’s corpse, strikes up a conversation with Cabrini, and sees an opening to move to America. The writers are unafraid to let each character show an unpleasant side, but the narrative loses focus by the final act. Still, there’s plenty of barbed commentary along the way (Nia on Patrick: “He’d still be a great chef, if only he hadn’t self-commoditized with such desperate abandon that it killed his art”). Foodies might enjoy this. Agent: David Granger, Aevitas Creative. (Nov.)