© Amber Ltd.
Roger Zelazny has long been one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction authors. After he died in 1995 a few last projects were published, but nothing since 1998, and I thought I’d never read another new Zelazny book. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to learn from Neil Gaiman’s blog and LOCUS last year that this novel had been found among his papers, a hard-boiled crime novel, and I’ve now read and enjoyed it.
Zelazny never published any other mystery or crime novels, but as his son Trent points out in the afterword, he was a voracious reader of all kinds of books, and must have tried writing this genre around 1970 or so. Some of his SF work at the time like “My Name is Legion” and “Today We Choose Faces” have similar themes, in fact.
As with all good writers, as soon as I began the book I found myself in familiar hands. The style is unmistakeable. Roger does try to make his prose style more terse and matter-of-fact, but mostly it reads like Zelazny. I’ve never been a fan of the crime genre, have only read one or two in the past, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book at all. It has a clever plot involving several murders. The protagonist, art dealer (and former art thief) Ovid Wiley is recruited by the CIA to investigate one of them, and his travels take him first to Rome and the Vatican, then to Brazil’s cities, suburbs and jungles. I don’t know how well Roger knew those places, but everything comes across convincingly, from the collection of shady characters, to the violence and brutality of the opponents, to the clever dodges of the hero and his girlfriend.
If, like me, you’re a Zelazny fan, you won’t want to miss this. If you’re a crime novel fan, I think this one will satisfy you. Perhaps it’s not among Zelazny’s best work like “Lord of Light,” or the first two Amber books, but definitely worth reading. Recommended.