katknit, February 03, 2009
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s it opens, The Keep zeroes in on Danny, who is forced to get out of town - fast, because he's screwed up royally once again. These initial chapters appear to be the set up for a romance novel, until they segue into the heart of the story. Serendipitously for Danny, his cousin Howard has provided him with an invitation and a one way plane ticket to a country (unnamed) in Eastern Europe. He makes a comically unceremonious arrival at his cousin's creepy, ancient castle, and the story becomes a tale of guilty secrets. Along the way the reader learns that Danny's adventure is being told to us by Ray, a maximum security prisoner serving time for murder and taking a writing class.
With plenty of gothic detail and danger, relieved with absurd comedic passages, the suspense factor ratchets up. Has Howard lured Danny to his castle in order to exact revenge for a childhood incident? Why has he acquired this property at all? A subplot, involving Ray and his writing teacher, weaves in and out of Danny's adventure, raising questions about who is who and what is real. Egan has surrounded her main figures with a fun cast of quirky ancillary characters. The enigmatic conclusion, though unexpected, is strangely satisfying.
The strength of this novel is its originality, but there is an element of confusion that sometimes distracts from the story. Recommended for readers willing to accept a dose of ambiguity.