Of all the stories this one feels most up-to-date in terms of its timing. But for vast tracts the focus is on the past.
Again the character of a novelist is asked to help with the literary estate of an old friend, Fanshawe. He steps into his old friend’s shoes in more ways than one marrying his wife and living off the proceeds of the fortunes created by his old school friend’s novels.
But he alone knows that his old school friend is not dead and faced with the commission of his biography sets out to try and rid himself of the feelings of being haunted by Fanshawe.
He heads out to track him down, despite being threatened with death for doing so, and in the process almost loses himself. His marriage falls apart and his own identity is on the brink of folding into the path taken by Fanshawe when they finally meet. The fact that the old school friend talks through a locked door makes him the body in the locked room.
Throughout the three stories you sense the deep knowledge and appreciation that Auster has for the detective fiction genre. But he leaves you feeling slightly frustrated as the stories are not completed with some great linking together. There are images replicated, like the red notebook and the loss of identity, but there are limits to how far the stories are linked.
In the end this is a book that has the power to make you think about identity and language and about how those that don’t know who they are anymore find it dangerously easy to lose themselves.
A review will follow soon…