My brother and I once met at a bar, and fell to talking about family. Parents, kids, relatives, the whole sick crew. He took issue with the idea about children being some link to the future, our bid at immortality. Parents, he says, are our true link to eternity. In each of us is a little bit of each of our parents, literally and figuratively, and in each of our parents a bit of theirs, and so on and so forth. All the way back to the Garden of Eden or the Primordial Ooze, depending upon your politics. Looking at our parents reminds us of eternity, he went on, because in them we can see everything that came before. Our parents remind us of the steaming piles of history it took to get to the present moment - in our case, the two of us into that bar on that night at that particular moment. Considering we hadn't looked at our parents since my brother and I were both five years old, watching their caskets being lowered into the ground, shuffling our feet and wishing it would stop raining, it was somewhat surprising. But that's my brother for you.
What that has to do with anything I'm not sure, except to say that it concerns family and eternity, two things which factor greatly into the events of the past week. It began in the bleary-eyed hours of the morning, with a phone in one hand and a telegram in the other, and ended with me watching the setting sun, the secret history of mankind clutched to my chest.
Who wouldn't follow the author anywhere after that? So I did, and I was greatly enjoying the ride. The mystery was engrossing and promising. It had some great characters. But I was ultimately left frustrated and disappointed.
The story serves up some inconsistencies and a whopper of an implausibility. The story begins with our hero having been out of town and having missed the news of his grandfather's death, delivered by telegram to his home two weeks before. And to keep a host of things from being too easy throughout the course of the novel, he'd lost his cellphone a week ago, and hadn't replaced it.
Wait... in the modern world, a telegram was someone's first choice of how to deliver important news? And in the intervening week between the telegram and his losing his cellphone, during which no one had heard from him, not one of his brother, the woman who raised him, or the executor of his grandfather's will tried to call him?
His bequest from his grandfather included a wooden case "for which no one could find the key." Our hero seems to simply accept the inevitability of it remaining locked, which would be fine in most books, but we'd shortly learn that our hero spent several years working as a cat burglar. He can pick locks. Later in the book, we see: "The lock on the door proved no problem, the work of a little over a minute." And it never even occurs to him to try to pick the lock on the case? Worse, "for which no one could find the key" implies more than a little that the relevant people had looked for it. But at the end of the book, when he mentions the case to the woman who raised him, she immediately retrieves the key. This one annoyed me a lot more than the cellphone, because it smacks of auctorial dishonesty. The contents of the box revealed too much, so it had to stay closed, even though it made no damn sense in the context of the rest of the story.
A conceit of the book is that the Mob operates a retreat center where representatives of organized crime syndicates attend auctions of the belongings of people who died in hock to the Mob, and everyone plays nicely. Our hero attends such an auction for another cat burglar's belongings. It's implausible seven ways to Sunday, not least that the cat burglar was just sitting on so much good loot, but I'm not complaining about that, because it was an entertainingly implausible conceit. What I'm complaining about is that our hero acquires the hotly contested item he wanted by waving around a CD-R and threatening to reveal info on the Mob's activities he was making vague unsubstantiated claims to having. There's no way that wouldn't have ended with an unmarked grave. Couldn't he have just used his mad cat burglar skills to steal the book from the victor?
Finally, when the book promises the secret history of humanity, it had better be good. And the revelation ultimately left me unsatisfied.
Also, in the things that aren't the author's fault department, the book was poorly copy-edited. We're treated to "wretch" for "retch", "principle" for "principal", "sometime" for "some time", and a missing quotation mark making a paragraph of mixed dialogue and narrative confusing.