Synopses & Reviews
When Jerry Delfont, an aimless travel writer with writers block (his dead hand”), receives a letter from an American philanthropist, Mrs. Merrill Unger, with news of a scandal involving an Indian friend of her sons, he is intrigued. Who is the dead boy, found on the floor of a cheap hotel room? How and why did he die? And what is Jerry to make of a patch of carpet, and a package containing a human hand?
He is swiftly captivated by the beautiful, mysterious Mrs. Ungerand revived by her tantric massagesbut the circumstances surrounding the dead boy cause him increasingly to doubt the womans motives and the exact nature of her philanthropy. Without much to go on, Jerry pursues answers from the teeming streets of Calcutta to Uttar Pradesh. It is a dark and twisted trail of obsession and need.
Beautifully written, A Dead Hand demonstrates the powerful evocation of place and character that has made Paul Theroux one of the most perceptive and engaging writers today.
"The prolific and well-traveled Theroux follows Ghost Train to the Eastern Star with a crime novel set in India. Jerry Delfont, a middle-aged travel writer, has ended up in Calcutta with no stories, no ideas, and no clear direction until he receives a letter from Mrs. Merrill Unger asking for his help. Rajat, a friend of Mrs. Unger's son, woke up in a cheap hotel with the dead body of a boy on the floor of his room and fled, rightly untrusting of the police. Jerry meets the Mrs. Unger and falls under her spell, his obsession fueled by her beauty and her skill at tantric massage. Mrs. Unger, who runs a children's charity, came to India to work with Mother Teresa, but soon joined 'the temple across the street' dedicated to Kali and is a practicing priestess who doesn't shirk at the goddess's requirement of animal sacrifice. While it's all good light fun, the real pleasure is Theroux's talent for rendering place and his irreverent comments on everything from the British royals to pop culture, aging, and yes, the venerable Mother Teresa. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"...the real pleasure is Therouxs talent for rendering place and his irreverent comments on everything from the British royals to pop culture, aging, and yes, the venerable Mother Teresa."
-- Publishers Weekly "A novel of extremes—rationality and obsession, humanitarianism and selfishness, ecstasy and heartlessness."
-- Kirkus Reviews "...an abundance of richly drawn characters...Theroux has used his travel writer's eye and ear and his novelist's imagination to craft a tense, disturbing, funny and horrifying book around all of them."
-- San Francisco Chronicle "Theroux brings his best gifts as a travel writer to one of his walk-on-the-dark-side fables of masked identity and psychosexual quest…[His] writing is as feline and agile as ever, and his calibration of clue and revelation is nicely meted out…this story will lure you in, from its whodunit setup to its swift, unexpectedly visionary close."
-- The Seattle Times
Jerry Delfont leads an aimless life in Calcutta, struggling in vain against his writer's block, or 'dead hand,' and flitting around the edges of a half-hearted romance. Then he receives a mysterious letter asking for his help. The story it tells is disturbing: A dead boy found on the floor of a cheap hotel, a seemingly innocent man in flight and fearing for reputation as well as his life.
Before long, Delfont finds himself lured into the company of the letter's author, the wealthy and charming Merrill Unger, and is intrigued enough to pursue both the mystery and the woman. A devotee of the goddess Kali, Unger introduces Delfont to a strange underworld where tantric sex and religious fervor lead to obsession, philanthropy and exploitation walk hand in hand, and, unless he can act in time, violence against the most vulnerable in society goes unnoticed and unpunished.
An atmospheric and masterful thriller from "the most gifted, the most prodigal writer of his generation" (Jonathan Raban).
A new novel from the world's favorite travel writer and best-selling author of the novels The Mosquito Coast and The Elephanta Suite.
About the Author
PAUL THEROUX's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.