Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Secret History Of Las Vegas by Chris Abani


Las Vegas is a place where people come to reinvent themselves and that is true for the characters in this novel.  There is Sunil, a psychologist who studies psychopaths whose work is desired by the military and who came here from South Africa where he worked in a camp known for torture and death.  There are Water and Fire, conjoined twins who are part of the Downwind Coalition, a group of those who lived close to the nuclear tests of the 1950's and 1960's and whose lives were affected by that.  Asia is a prostitute who Sunil loves but who won't commit to him.   Salazar is a police detective who is about to retire but won't stop until he solves the crimes of a serial killer who periodically does a body dump of multiple victims.  Eskia was a former friend and colleague of Sunil in South Africa but that ended when they both fell in love with the same woman.  Now he has come to the United States with one objective; to kill the man who betrayed his country and his love.

Together they interact in an attempt to achieve conflicting aims.  But one thing is the same for each of them.  They are all searching for redemption and a sense that their existence is worthwhile.  

Chris Abani was born in Nigeria but came to the United States where he got his various degrees.  His first published works were poetry and that work can be sensed in the rhythms of this book.  This novel explores the themes of betrayal and redemption and the effect of government and corporate actions on the lives of those they will never meet and care little about.  It is called a mystery but there isn't as much of that as there is character development and actions that seek redemption.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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