On a cold, quiet day between Christmas and the New Year, a mans body is found in an abandoned apartment. His friends look on, but theyre dead, too. Their bodies found in squats and sheds and alleyways across the city. Victims of a bad batch of heroin, theyre in the shadows, a chorus keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying their own particular homage as their friends body is taken away, examined, investigated, and cremated. All of their stories are laid out piece by broken piece through a series of fractured narratives. We meet Robert, the deceased, the only alcoholic in a sprawling group of junkies; Danny, just back from uncomfortable holidays with family, who discovers the body and futiley searches for his other friends to share the news of Roberts death; Laura, Roberts daughter, who stumbles into the junkys life when she moves in with her father after years apart; Heather, who has her own place for the first time since she was a teenager; Mike, the Falklands War vet; and all the others. Theirs are stories of lives fallen through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress, and the disregard of the wider world. These invisible people live in a parallel reality, out of reach of basic creature comforts, like food and shelter. In their sudden deaths, it becomes clear, they are treated with more respect than they ever were in their short lives. Intense, exhilarating, and shot through with hope and fury, Even the Dogs is an intimate exploration of life at the edges of society--littered with love, loss, despair, and a half-glimpse of redemption.
This mercifully short third novel from McGregor (If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things) is told from the various perspectives of a loosely connected band of down-and-outers linked by Robert, a hopeless alcoholic whose wife has taken their daughter and left him alone in his flat, which has since become a gathering place for the members of McGregor's cast. Robert's death sets in motion the novel's events-it would be misleading to call it a plot-starting with the police taking away his body. For the most part, we're with Danny, whose past gradually comes to light via an expletive-laced narration that verges on incoherence: his foster home upbringing; his relationship with Robert's daughter, Laura, whom Danny is trying to contact; and of course, his heroin addiction, which provides much of the novel's subject matter. In the process, we learn about the group that frequented Robert's flat, a motley crew who provide plenty of sordid stories. But the central mystery-how did Robert die?-goes nowhere, and the spliced-in set pieces that describe the stages Robert's body undergoes on its way to eventual cremation don't do any favors for this misfire. (Feb.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
February 15, 2010
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