Siege of Comedians

Susan Daitch. Dzanc, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-950539-33-8
Daitch’s ebullient latest (after The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir) uses genre conventions as a jumping-off point for offbeat explorations in three interlocking novellas. In “Clay Heads Talking,” forensic sculptor Iridia Kepler is tasked with reconstructing five heads for the police after a bombing, to aid in identifying the victims. Kepler enthusiastically shares the minutiae of her task in sassy narration, which drifts delightfully into literary and historical allusions, until an associate turns up dead and a mysterious shirtless man shows up in her lab and tells her she must redo the models. “The Propaganda Artist” unfolds like a political thriller and has as its protagonist another singular professional who aids police. Martin Shusterman is an accent specialist. The complex plot, accommodated by third-person narration, starts as a probe into the disappearance of Shusterman’s girlfriend, Abril, in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, then spools back in time to WWII. The city of Vienna links the first two stories—Kepler eventually lands there, and Shusterman finds answers there—and it sets the stage for the third, “Levitating Cities,” in which the city is under siege by the Turks, before jumping forward in time. A satisfying coda brings back Kepler. Throughout, Daitch finds stimulating connections and writes with sharp irony and joy. This offers delights on every page. Agent: Julie Stevenson, MMQLit. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/08/2021
Release date: 09/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
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