The Singer's Gun
Emily St. John Mandel
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Buy *The Singer's Gun* by Emily St. John Mandel online

The Singer's Gun
Emily St. John Mandel
Unbridled Books
304 pages
April 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In a sea of predictability, The Singer's Gun is a refreshing tale that marries the search for connection to the darker side of criminal enterprise and the shady territory between right and wrong. Anton Waker hopes to shed the past for a more conventional attempt at corporate life and marriage to a classical musician, leaving behind a partnership with his cousin in selling passports and Social Security cards to immigrants.

Child of a family that has long lived with the inherent problems of criminal enterprise, Anton has enjoyed his work, but his hopeful foray into the corporate arena may be threatened when the company requires thorough background checks with employees. Not only will Antonís Harvard degree be proven false, but his other activities will likely be exposed. While an unwitting Anton agrees to do one more job for his cousin, Aria, a State Department investigator has already begun pressuring Antonís former secretary and sometime lover Elena to tape incriminating conversations.

After two cancellations, Antonís wedding to Sophie is finally accomplished, the couple honeymooning on a Mediterranean island. Here the final exchange is to take place, and that Anton faces the shape of the future he has created. Anton is a well-meaning character whose best intentions have brought him to an impasse where his emotions are in direct conflict with his actions, where thoughts of his lover intrude into the marriage bed and the troubles that await in New York seem as distant as the infinite ocean that surrounds this island paradise. Yet menace shimmers on the horizon as the investigator hones in on her prey and Elena makes one last attempt to flee the consequences of her decisions.

The author reveals her characters in flashbacks: the first innocent meetings; the undeniable attraction between Anton and Elena; Sophieís dedication to her music filling a New York apartment with poignant notes; the unpredictable, often violent world of criminal enterprise and illegal immigration, where willing souls are packed like sardines - for a price - on cargo ships that deliver them silently to the shores of America. But even the best motives have terrible consequences as Antonís practical caution leads to tragedy at the same time that it promises a new life.

Like a pied piper, the author leads her audience through the stories of those who seek a better life, where desperate times call for desperate measures and Antonís work with his cousin offers opportunity and at least a modicum of hope. But where crime thrives, and law enforcement pursues, there are always unintended consequences. While Anton considers his place in the grand scheme of things under the vivid Mediterranean sky, danger seems a distant, unlikely thing as the days pass and the meeting has yet to occur. Yet everything moves inexorably toward conclusion, a reckoning and a bargain with fate. Mandel writes with such beauty and grace that we are lulled, like Anton, into complacency while reality arrives with the tide, carrying both violence and gifts.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2010

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