It’s an incredibly busy, yet deliciously heady time as we head into our fall sales conference; piles of manuscripts are literally hitting our desks on a daily basis. I’m particularly excited about a new novel called Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital. In fact it may be the very first book I’ve ever read that made me immediately go out and buy a music CD (Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Eurydice plays continually in the background of this novel).
Orpheus Lost is set mostly in Boston, in a contemporary America where several more terrorist attacks have taken place. Leela Moore, an academic doing complicated research into the mathematical relationships in music, first meets Miska in the subway, where he is playing his violin. They embark on a passionate affair but she becomes disturbed by Miska’s silences and the odd way he has of disappearing for short periods of time.
Citizens are continually being investigated for possible ties to terrorist activities, and one night Leela finds herself picked up by a car and taken to a locked room. However, she doesn’t know that the key interrogator is Cobb, an old friend of hers from childhood who, after a stint with the army in Iraq, now works for a private security company. When Miska goes missing for real, Leela desperately turns to Cobb for help, not realizing that he has secrets and traumas of his own to deal with.
This is a richly complex literary novel. On the one hand it’s a beautifully written, sensual, blush-inducing love story, that also tackles the very personal search for identity within a fragmented world. And yet it is also a gripping, suspenseful thriller that is extremely perceptive and probing, not just about contemporary global anxieties but also about how humans cope daily with the destructive effects of war through the generations. An absolutely terrific read!