cover image Dirty Tricks

Dirty Tricks

Michael Dibdin. Summmit Books, $17.5 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-671-69545-3

Dibdin's ( The Tryst ) fifth novel is a deliciously mean-spirited satirical tale of murder and betrayal. The unnamed narrator is a 40-year-old teacher of English as a second language, by his own description ``damaged goods . . . another over-educated, under-motivated loser.'' A sort of '60s throwback, he has reluctantly returned from stints abroad to a Thatcherized England, where chance throws him together with a well-to-do but hopelessly vulgar suburban couple. His affair with the wife proves his first step up the social ladder. As he climbs over the bodies around him, the book becomes a pointed, witty send-up of the new Tory brand of self-help, and the protagonist's clumsy ruthlessness a parody of free-market economics. On the final pages the whole thing comes together in a bleak, black joke on the era of neo-conservatism, in England and elsewhere. Dibdin's subtly inflected first-person narration is a marvel of controlled tone, with the narrator's snide, snobbish facade gradually dissolving into self-disgust until he marshals his emotional forces in the climax. A wickedly funny tour de force. (Sept.)