Silent Murders (Book Acquired, 9.02.2014)

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Mary Miley’s Silent Murders. Macmillan/Minotaur’s blurb:

Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance inThe Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she’s taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

Saving Simon (Book Acquired, 9.15.2014)

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Saving Simon by Jon Katz is new in hardback from Random House. Their blurb:

In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.

In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection. Simon touched something very deep inside of him. Jon and Maria decided to take him in.

Simon’s recovery was far from easy. Weak and malnourished, he needed near constant care, but Jon was determined to help him heal. As Simon’s health improved, Jon would feed him by hand, read to him, take him on walks, even confide in him like an old and trusted friend. Then, miraculously, as if in reciprocation, Simon began to reveal to Jon the true meaning of compassion, the ways in which it can transform our lives and inspire us to take great risks.

This radically different perspective on kindness and empathy led Jon to a troubled border collie from Ireland in need of a home, a blind pony who had lived outside in a pasture for fifteen years, and a new farm for him and Maria. In the great tradition of heroes—from Don Quixote to Shrek—who faced the world in the company of their donkeys, Jon came to understand compassion and mercy in a new light, learning to open up “not just to Simon, not just to animals, but to the human experience. To love, to risk, to friendship.”

With grace, warmth, and keen emotional insight, Saving Simon plumbs the depths of the bonds we form with our animals, and the rewards of “living a more compassionate, considered, and meaningful life.”

The Haunting Ballad (Book Acquired 9.12.2014)

IMG_3296.JPGThe Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott. PW’s review:

Set in 1957, Nethercott’s diverting second Lee Plunkett mystery (after 2013’s The Séance Society) takes the Connecticut PI and his fiancée, Audrey Valish, to Greenwich Village. At the Cafe Mercutio, they witness an acrimonious dispute between two performers, “song-catcher” Lorraine Cobble and troubadour Byron Spires. When Lorraine apparently leaps to her death from the roof of her apartment building, her distraught cousin, Sally Joan Cobble, hires Lee to prove she didn’t commit suicide. Lee is the nominal detective, but the heavy lifting is done by wily Irishman Mr. O’Nelligan, who lends sage advice and guidance. Together, the duo approach Lorraine’s former housemates, such as “ghost chanter” Mrs. Pattinshell and 105-year-old Civil War vet Cornelius Boyle. Nethercott has fun with the bustling Bohemian atmosphere and Lee and Audrey’s awkward romance, but reserves the best lines for the exchanges between O’Nelligan and Lee as they close in on the unlikely culprit.

The Accidental Universe (Book Acquired, 9.17.2014)

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Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe is new in trade paperback next month from Random House. From James Orbesen’s review earlier this year in Bookslut:

Comprised of a number of essays, The Accidental Universe documents recent discoveries about our universe, the quest for a complete Standard Model of physics to explain, literally, everything, and the recently uncovered Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” that grants subatomic particles their mass. This is balanced by Lightman’s reflections on human nature, our mutual condition, and our place in a vast cosmos beyond our reach. This creates an interesting tension that runs throughout the collection, beginning right at the beginning in the titular essay.

Lightman starts with that: “The history of science can, in fact, be viewed as the recasting of phenomena that were once accepted as ‘givens’ as phenomena that can now be understood in terms of fundamental causes and principles.”

Science peels away layers that obscure the truth at the heart of our universe. However, after centuries of constant triumph, scientists have run into a brick wall. For every new discovery, new questions arise that science may not also be able to answer. After affirming what science has done, he pulls away the table cloth: “According to the current thinking of many physicists, we are living in one of a vast number of universes. We are living in an accidental universe. We are living in a universe incalculable by science.”

Microreview of Ben Marcus’s Leaving the Sea (Book Acquired, 9.17.2014)

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The kind people at Random House sent me a trade paperback of Ben Marcus’s latest collection, Leaving the Sea. The trade paperback comes out in early October.

I actually read the book this summer, and enjoyed it, was frustrated by it, occasionally sickened by it, was enthralled by at least two stories (“The Loyalty Protocol” and “The Moors”), and found one story to be so terribly sad and distressing and horrifying that I hope to never read anything like it again, which is kind of a compliment (“Rollingwood”).

I jammed Leaving the Sea into a riff on stuff I wished I’d written about in the first half of 2014. This is what I wrote:

Leaving the Sea, Ben Marcus: A weird and (thankfully) uneven collection that begins with New Yorkerish stories of a post-Lish stripe (like darker than Lipsyte stuff) and unravels (thankfully) into sketches and thought experiments and outright bizarre blips. Abjection, abjection, abjection. The final story ‘The Moors’ is a minor masterpiece.”

Read “On Not Growing Up” from the collection at Conjunctions. First paragraphs:

—HOW LONG HAVE YOU been a child?

—Seventy-one years.

—Who did you work with?

—Meyerowitz for the first phase: colic, teething, walking, talking. He taught me how to produce false prodigy markers and developmental reversals, to test the power in the room without speaking. I was encouraged to look beyond the tantrum and drastic mood migrations that depended on the environment, and if you know my work you have an idea what resulted. The rest is a hodgepodge, but I don’t advocate linear apprenticeships. A stint in the Bonn Residency. Fellowships at the Cleveland Place, then later a stage at Quebec Center. I entered that Appalachian Trail retreat in 1974, before Krenov revised it, but had to get helicoptered out. Probably my first infant crisis, before I knew to deliberately court interference. The debt to Meyerowitz is huge, obviously, if just for the innocence training. Probably I should have laid off after that, because now it’s all
about unlearning.

—Unlearning as Kugler practices it? That radical?

—I skip the hostility to animals. I skip the forced submersion and the chelation flush. That’s proven to be a dead end. But Kugler is a walking contradiction in that respect, isn’t he? He keeps a horse barn.
He does twilight childishness, and now he’s suddenly opposing the Phoenix baby-talk crowd, who I think are not as threatening as he makes out.

—They’re not registered.

Wouldn’t It Be Deadly? (Book Acquired, Like Last Week or the Week Before)

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Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland. PW’s write up:

Set in London in 1913, this tongue-in-cheek series kickoff from the pseudonymous Ireland picks up where the musical My Fair Lady left off. Eliza Doolittle has left her irascible mentor, Henry Higgins, to work for a rival elocution teacher, Emil Nepommuck. Nepommuck features her transformation from street flower-seller to someone who passed for a duchess prominently in his advertising, and manages to steal some of Higgins’s students. When someone fatally stabs Nepommuck in the back outside his apartment, Higgins, who confronted the man earlier, becomes Scotland Yard’s prime suspect. Higgins turns out to be hiding a secret, which is out of character with his stage and film personae. Some readers may find character names like Harrison and Shaw a bit heavy-handed, though others may smile when Higgins describes Eliza as a “fair lady” or wonders why anyone would care about the “rain in Spain.” A

Three Can Keep a Secret (Book Acquired Some Time in August, 2014)

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Archer Mayor’s Three Can Keep a Secret is, the press materials assure me, the 24th in a series of Joe Gunther mysteries. Holy cow! Publisher Macmillan/Tor’s blurb:

Joe Gunther and his team—the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI)—are usually called in on major cases by local Vermont enforcement whenever they need expertise and back-up.  But after the state is devastated by Hurricane Irene, the police from one end of the state are taxed to their limits, leaving Joe Gunther involved in an odd, seemingly unrelated series of cases. In the wake of the hurricane, a seventeen year old gravesite is exposed, revealing a coffin that had been filled with rocks instead of the expected remains.

At the same time, an old, retired state politician turns up dead at his high-end nursing home, in circumstances that leave investigators unsure that he wasn’t murdered.  And a patient who calls herself The Governor has walked away from a state mental facility during the post-hurricane flood. It turns out that she was indeed once “Governor for a Day,” over forty years ago, but that she might have also been falsely committed and drugged to keep her from revealing something that she saw all those years ago.  Amidst the turmoil and the disaster relief, it’s up to Joe Gunther and his team to learn what really happened with the two corpses—one missing—and what secret “The Governor” might have still locked in her brain that links them all.

 

The Purchase (Book Acquired, 9.03.2014)

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Linda Spalding’s novel The Purchase is new in trade paperback from Random House. Their blurb:

Pennsylvania, 1798. Daniel Dickinson, a devout Quaker, has just lost his wife. When he marries a fifteen-year-old Methodist orphan to help with his five small children, his fellow Quakers disown him for his impropriety. Forced out of the only community he’s ever known, Daniel moves his family to the Virginia frontier. He has in hand a few land warrants, with which he plans to establish his new homestead.
Although determined to hold to his Quaker belief in abolitionism, Daniel is now in a slave state, and he soon finds himself the owner of a young boy named Onesimus. This fatal purchase sets in motion a twisted chain of events that will forever change his children’s lives—and his own. An unforgettable story of sacrifice and redemption, The Purchase powerfully explores questions of fate, faith, loyalty, and conscience.

Dmitry Samarov’s Where To? (Book Acquired, 8.22.2014)

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Where To? A Hack Memoir is Dmitry Samarov’s sequel to Hack.

Publisher Curbside Splendor’s blurb:

Dmitry Samarov’s illustrated memoir captures encounters with drunken passengers, overbearing cops, unreasonable city bureaucracy, his fellow cabdrivers, a few potholes, and other unexpectedly beautiful moments. Accompanied by dozens of Samarov’s original artworks—composed during traffic jams, waits at the airport, and lulls in his shifts—the stories in Where To? provide a street-level view of America from the perspective of an immigrant painter driving a cab for money.

I interviewed Dmitry about his art and his writing a few years ago, and he described Hack:

Hack started as a zine around 2000 as a way for me to make sense of my three years driving a cab in Boston (1993-1997). It was called Hack because the license to operate a taxi in Boston was called a Hackney Carriage License and they used to call cabbies hacks in the old days. It was my first attempt at writing outside of school homework assignments and there really wasn’t much writing, it was mostly pictures. Those pictures were a challenge too because, as I’ve said, I work primarily from direct observation and the only way to do these were from memory. These illustrations were made to work together with the words, not to stand on their own and that has continued to be the case through the whole history of Hack.

I started driving a taxi in Chicago in 2003 and revived Hack as a blog late in 2006. To my surprise, it got notice pretty quickly from some in the local press—Whet Moser, then of theChicago Reader especially—-and my high school pal John Hodgman mentioning it in a magazine didn’t hurt either. That got it noticed by a publicist at University of Chicago Press named Levi Stahl. He bought a copy of my self-published compilation (see the third one down) and eventually pitched Hack as a book to his employers. They published it in October 2011.

Lars Iyer’s Wittgenstein Jr (Book Acquired, 8.29.2014)

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Lars Iyer’s latest is now available in hardback from Melville House. Iyer discussed the novel a bit with me when I interviewed him last year:

Wittgenstein Jr? A difficult novel to write, not least because it is my first attempt at pure fiction. I had the safeguard of basing it on the life of the real Wittgenstein, replaying it in a Cambridge University of the present. But I had to dream up characters, narrative incident, narrative colour… Above all, I had to find new rhythms of writing, which fit my version of Wittgenstein himself, and fit his students. Everything is about rhythm!

There’s high despair and low humour – a lot of humour. There’s romance. There’s paranoia. There’s utopianism: dreams of friendship, of politics, of meaning. There’s lyricism. There’s madness. There’s anti-Cambridge-dons invective. There’s dance. There are songs (all novels should have songs). There are long walks in the snow. Allusions to Paul, paraphrases of rabbinical commentaries on the Bible, quotes from Wallace Stevens, from Goethe, lines from Pretty Woman… Dramatic re-enactments of great philosophical deaths…

We could probably maybe add the novel to David Markson’s list from Vanishing Point:

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (Book Acquired, 8.19.2014)

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David Mitchell’s new novel The Bone Clocks showed up at Biblioklept World Headquarters earlier this week, but I’ve been busy with the start of the Fall semester and haven’t had a chance to get into it yet. Here’s publisher Random House’s blurb:

Following a terrible fight with her mother over her boyfriend, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her family and her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

Rich with character and realms of possibility, The Bone Clocks is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer The Washington Post calls “the novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction.”

An elegant conjurer of interconnected tales, a genre-bending daredevil, and a master prose stylist, David Mitchell has become one of the leading literary voices of his generation. His hypnotic new novel, The Bone Clocks, crackles with invention and wit and sheer storytelling pleasure—it is fiction at its most spellbinding.

Clarice Lispector/Tom Clark (Books Acquired, 8.15.2014)

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(In a Sense) Lost & Found (Book Acquired, 7.26.2014)

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I’ve read Roman Muradov’s debut graphic novella (In a Sense) Lost & Found a few times now and it’s great—hits the trifecta of strange, beautiful, and smart. It’s new from Nobrow Press. Here’s their blurb:

(In a Sense) Lost and Found, the first graphic novel by rising star Roman Muradov, explores the theme of innocence by treating it as a tangible object; something that can be used, lost, and mistreated. Muradov’s crisp, delicate style conjures a world of strange bookstores, absurd conspiracies, and charming wordplay. A surreal tale in the mold of the best American alternative comics, In a Sense retains its distinctly Eastern perspective.

Muradov lets the art tell this surreal story of a girl looking for something that the narrative refuses to reveal to us. There is no exposition, and readers looking for dialogue that explains everything to them will likely be perplexed. The book is gorgeous, rich, dark—I would include some panels here but the pages are so thick and dark that my iPhone simply can’t handle them. (The picture I took of the cover, above, does no justice to the book’s aesthetics). I’ll get some hi-res images for the full review I plan to post next week though. Great stuff.

The Lotus and the Storm (Book Acquired, 07.25.2014)

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Lan Cao’s novel The Lotus and the Storm is out in hardback later this month. Here’s the Kirkus review:

Written with acute psychological insight and poetic flair, this deeply moving novel illuminates the ravages of war as experienced by a South Vietnamese family.

In a rewarding follow-up to her well-received debut, Monkey Bridge (1997), the author returns to the conflict that shaped her own destiny before she was airlifted from her native Saigon to live in Virginia. Here, she shows what happens to a family of four—a South Vietnamese airborne commander, his beautiful wife and their two young daughters—as the war challenges loyalties with betrayals. The story is narrated by two characters: Mai, the younger daughter, who recalls her girlhood as the war intensified from her current home in Virginia; and Minh, her father, who’s living with Mai and with his memories of what transpired in Vietnam 40 years earlier. “Saigon still wraps itself around me and squeezes me with sudden force,” he explains, though the traumatic effects on Mai prove stronger and even stranger. What’s plain from the setup, with its alternating voices, is that only half of this family will be telling the story, a story in which what happened to the other two proves crucial. The novel’s most complex figure is Quý, Mai’s mother and Minh’s wife, from whom the reader never hears but whose depth of character reveals itself through the perspectives of others. She made a sacrifice by marrying a man considered below her, and she continued to make sacrifices, some of which seemed like betrayals, to protect the lives of those she loved, including her Viet Cong brother as well as her husband. Mai can’t really comprehend through a child’s eyes what’s happening with her family and how threatened their future is, though she intuitively senses that something is wrong. Even Minh doesn’t realize until decades later what really happened, and the revelations will surprise the reader as well.

A novel that humanizes the war in a way that body counts and political analyses never will.

Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction (Book Acquired, 07.24.2014)

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So of course I’ve been eating up Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe, a new critical study by Bolaño’s translator Chris Andrews. I’ve read the introduction and the first three chapters so far, and the study, far from being dry and academic, compels me to dig deeper.

The book really starts with the second chapter, with Andrews simply trying to situate Bolaño-as-publishing-phenomenon in the first chapter. The introduction—which you can read at publisher Columbia UP’s site—offers a clear overview of what Andrews aims to do.

Andrews writes that:

…the interconnected series of narratives that begins with Nazi Literatures in the Americas (originally published in 1996) and ends with the stories that appeared posthumously in The Secret of Evil … can be regarded as forming a single, openly structured edifice whose two sustaining pillars are The Savage Detectives and 2666, and for which Woes of the True Policeman served as a preparatory model.

Andrews’s description recalls Javier Moreno’s geometry of Bolaño’s fictions:

moreno

This model has greatly influenced my own reading of Bolaño over the years, leading to my conceptualization of Bolaño’s later work existing in a self-creating, self-deconstructing Bolañoverse.

Andrews’s description of the Bolañoverse (he doesn’t use the term):

Bolaño expanded or “exploded” his own published texts, blowing them up by adding new characters and episodes as well as circumstantial details. He also allowed characters to circulate or migrate from text to text, sometimes altering their names and properties. Within his novels and stories, he inclded representations of imagined texts and artworks, that is, metarepresentations. Finally, some of his characters and narrators are over-interpreters: they seize on details, invest them with significance, and invent stories to connect and explain them. 

More to come; for now, the publisher’s blurb:

Since the publication of The Savage Detectives in 2007, the work of Roberto Bolaño (1953–2003) has achieved an acclaim rarely enjoyed by literature in translation. Chris Andrews, a leading translator of Bolaño’s work into English, explores the singular achievements of the author’s oeuvre, engaging with its distinct style and key thematic concerns, incorporating his novels and stories into the larger history of Latin American and global literary fiction.

Andrews provides new readings and interpretations of Bolaño’s novels, including 2666, The Savage Detectives, and By Night in Chile, while at the same time examining the ideas and narrative strategies that unify his work. He begins with a consideration of the reception of Bolaño’s fiction in English translation, examining the reasons behind its popularity. Subsequent chapters explore aspects of Bolaño’s fictional universe and the political, ethical, and aesthetic values that shape it. Bolaño emerges as the inventor of a prodigiously effective “fiction-making system,” a subtle handler of suspense, a chronicler of aimlessness, a celebrator of courage, an anatomist of evil, and a proponent of youthful openness. Written in a clear and engaging style, Roberto Bolano’s Fiction offers an invaluable understanding of one of the most important authors of the last thirty years.

Repairable Men (Book Acquired, 7.21.2014)

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John Carr Walker’s collection Repairable Men is new from Sunnyoutside. Blurb from the author’s website:

The stories in Repairable Men look at the small towns and rural farms where families stay for generations and newcomers never quite feel at home. Whether trapped by dead-end work, hostile relatives, or the troubling legacies of their forebears, John Carr Walker’s characters are seeking escape, forgiveness, and redemption in the dusty corners of the new American West.

Read his story “Candelario.”

 

Atonement of Blood (Book Acquired, Sometime in Early July, 2014)

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Atonement of Blood is historical mystery fiction by Peter Tremayne. Publisher’s blurb:

Winter, 670 AD. King Colgú has invited the leading nobles and chieftains of his kingdom to a feast day. Fidelma and her companion Eadulf are finally home for an extended stay, and have promised their son, Alchú, that they’ll be able to spend some time together after months of being on the road, investigating crimes. Fidelma and Eadulf are enjoying the feast when it is interrupted by the entrance of a religieux, who claims he has an important message for the King. He approaches the throne and shouts ‘Remember Liamuin!’ and then stabs King Colgú. The assassin is slain, but does enough damage to take out Colgú’s bodyguard, and to put the king himself on the verge of death.

As King Colgú lies in recovery, Fidelma, Eadulf, and bodyguard Gormán are tasked with discovering who is behind the assassination attempt, and who Liamuin is. They must journey into the territory of their arch-enemies, the Uí Fidgente, to uncover the secrets in the Abbey of Mungairit, and then venture into the threatening mountain territory ruled by a godless tyrant. Danger and violence are their constant companions until the final devastating revelation.

Four by Thomas Bernhard (Books Acquired, 7.15.2014)

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So the other week, Turner wrote, at my favorite local bookstore—a labyrinthine maze you wouldn’t believe, formed from wooden frames filled with dusty paper stacks, obstacles of boxed books, unexplored (the boxed books, not the shelves), littering the pathways (the boxed books)—just under 2 million books (all the books, shelved, and boxed), if a certain clerk is to be believed (and I believe her)—and you wouldn’t believe, and I know you wouldn’t believe because I go there often enough, me, living just a mile away, sometimes walking, briskly, or at an even pace—and with this free time on my hands, and with all these unsolicited review copies, creating a little pool of credit, of trade of etc.—I know you wouldn’t believe because I so often hear the irregular clientele remarking on their own personal disbelief, or their own befuddlement, or, more often, I see them get lost, and even then I’m enjoying that, maybe offering (mis)direction, or, more likely, intercepting the high school seniors—What are you reading? Yes? Faulkner! No! Not that edition!—And so the other week at my favorite local bookstore, I happened upon, neatly stacked in a to-be-shelved shelf, a neatly stacked stack of Thomas Bernhard novels, or, more precisely, a compliment stack of Thomas Bernhard novels, a so-called stack of novels that I did not so-call “own,” a so-called stack of Thomas Bernhard novels that I had not read, not to mention have in my own personal possession, a little series of Vintage English translation editions that could be nestled next to my own meager collection, already, yes, Gargoyles and Correction and Concrete and Yes and The Loser and The Voice Imitator and Frostbut not Old Masters, and Old Masters not in this neatly-stacked bundle (it was never a bundle), no, not Old Masters, which, Turner wrote, Chang wrote about on this so-called website, no, no not Old Masters, not in the so-called bundle, but what to begrudge, begrudge that, no, Turner thought and wrote, and then, looking back over what he had written, thought, No, this is rubbish, I must delete all this, I must erase all this and not push publish.

Enemies at Home (Book Acquired, Some Time in Late June, 2014)

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Enemies at Home is new historical fiction by Lindsey Davis. Blurb from her site:

The second Albia novel will be published by Hodder and Stoughton and St Martin’s Press in 2014

PLOT SUMMARY: Albia novel 2

Every slave is an enemy, said Seneca

When a newly-married couple are violently robbed and murdered in their apartment, the vigiles take the easy way out and accuse their household slaves. The slaves seek refuge in the Temple of Ceres, a more reluctant haven of liberty than tradition claims. Albia’s new friend Manlius Faustus is tasked with persuading the runaways to leave. He hires Albia to help him work out what really happened…