‘I’m a Joker, I’m a Smoker’

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A Ladder to the Sky
by John Boyne
Hogarth.  365 pages, $27.

 

THIS SUSPENSEFUL NOVEL by John Boyne tells a tale about a literary thief.

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         The book feels like a Patricia Highsmith novel or Alfred Hitchcock film, letting the suspense build and carefully placing clues and details, such as the wobbly bannister that Maurice promises to fix, or the unusual way his interviewer dresses. There are also wonderful glimpses into the contemporary literary world, such as Maurice’s visit with Gore Vidal, who accurately sizes up the young man. There are glimpses into his childhood that help explain his behavior, and with his charm, manipulations, and ambition, Maurice makes for a fascinating character. There are enough twists to keep readers interested, and some surprises that are truly shocking. It is an entertaining look at a literary psychopath who feeds on the life stories of others.

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Charles Green is a writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.

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