19 April 2011
Crime Fiction Alphabet - ORIGINAL FACE, Nicholas Jose
This week's letter in the Crime Fiction Alphabet is the letter O. Not an easy letter (but not as hard as some to come like X and Z).
I've decided to bring you a book from my pre-blog reading days, written by an Australian academic, Nicholas Jose,who was at the English Department at Harvard University as Chair of Australian Studies 2009-10. I'm not sure if he is still there. At the time of publication of ORIGINAL FACE he held the Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide from 2005-08.
"The drama begins with a body dumped in south-western Sydney - skinned, with no face. Lewis Lin, taxi driver, photographer, recent arrival from Beijing, happens to be at the scene. With detectives Ginger Rogers and Shelley Swert in pursuit, Lin finds himself drawn into a deadly immigration racket, with a cast which includes a film-maker just in from LA, a Buddhist monk, a millionaire bachelor artist, a masseuse, a maniacal violinist, and a refugee assassin.
Part thriller, part ethnic noir, dark and comic by turns, Original Face offers a sensuous and highly coloured portrait of the jostling energies that make up life in the contemporary Australian city.
Drawing its title from an ancient Zen koan, the novel traces the complicated manoeuvres by which people mask their identities, and the accidental pathways by which these hidden selves come to light."
"Before your father and mother were born, what was your original face? This ancient riddle is about appearance and identity. Who are we really? We have a presence that can be accounted for by background, and a presence that appears in what we do and how we interact. In a diverse society such as ours people have many ‘faces’. They are known, and know themselves, in many different ways. And there’s always that question, about who someone is, really."
I found the ending of the book a bit soft and the detectives an unlikely pair. An interesting insight into the Chinese immigration trade and the left overs of Tianenmen Square.
Nicholas Jose is not really a crime fiction writer, more an academic whose exploration of a philosophical topic led him into writing crime fiction.
When I read ORIGINAL FACE in 2006 I loved it and gave it a rating of 4.6