Saturday, May 23, 2015

Publishers Weekly starred review of THE CAPTIVE CONDITION:

Keating’s sophomore novel (after The Natural Order of Things) is a black comedy that transcends its own offbeat energy and becomes truly disturbing. Jesuit-educated Edmund Campion is attending graduate school in the small Midwestern town of Normandy Falls. When his master’s thesis topic is rejected by his self-important advisor, Dr. Kingsley, Edmund drops out and takes a job as a campus groundskeeper, working for a brutal supervisor known only as the Gonk. Meanwhile, Kingsley’s lover, Emily Ryan, is found dead in her swimming pool, and Kingsley and his amateur bodybuilder wife end up taking in Emily’s disturbed twin daughters. Morgan Fey, Edmund’s ex-girlfriend, takes a job in a French restaurant, where the chef brews up the hallucinogenic carrot juice that is the town’s drug of choice. This is only the beginning: hauntings, murders, live burials, and imprisonment in underground chambers are just some of the fates that lie in store for various unsuspecting townsfolk. The comically formal tone of the first two-thirds shows Keating to be an astute student of spooky scene-setters from Edgar Allen Poe to Stephen King to David Lynch. But in many of the final passages, such as a horrific building fire, he proves to be at least their equal. It’s a mysterious novel, both in terms of its plot and its ambitions—the book’s biggest missed opportunity is that its world feels a bit too hermetic and detached from our own—but it’s also a darkly funny read and a stylistic tour de force.


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