cover image The Truth

The Truth

Michael Palin. St. Martin's/Dunne, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-02824-2

Monty Python member Michael Palin (Hemingway's Chair) impresses with an enjoyable second novel. Keith Mabbut, an aging writer of talent but only modest success, is offered a lucrative contract to write the biography of the famous, but elusive indigenous rights activist Hamish Melville, an opportunity that would require him to put on hold his passion project of a trilogy of fantasy novels. After seeking advice from nearly everyone in his life, Mabbut travels to India in pursuit of an interview subject who does not want to be found. So begins a multi-continental adventure full of corporate intrigue, moral quandaries, and entertaining characters. Palin is a thoughtful, descriptive stylist, particularly in the South Asian chapters, and charmingly portrays Mabbut's middle-aged haplessness in the face of culture shock and unexpected mortal danger. As portended by the title, many characters prove to be different than they first seem, but these reversals are earned and lead to a satisfying climax. (Aug.)