Publishers Weekly
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Recalling Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, but with a stolen painting substituting for sex, McCarthy's early novel, set in 1990s Prague, follows a purloined religious icon as it passes through the lives of Anton, a Bulgarian football referee turned black marketer; Ivan, a Czech abstract artist turned forger; and his British roommate, Nick, an aspiring art critic and artists' model. Additional assorted hangers-on of Dutch, American, and ex-Yugoslav stripes constitute a teeming cross-section of Eastern European life in the wake of the Communist governments' collapse. Observing them all is a nameless police inspector covertly tracking the painting's movements. And above them all is the symbolic specter of a Russian cosmonaut stranded in space. And then there is the mystery behind the painting itself: what does its floating, enigmatic central figure represent? In his novel, much of which was written before his debut, Remainder, and published in the U.K. in 2007, McCarthy (C) raises more questions than he answers and creates more plot elements, including several deaths and double-crosses, than he resolves. But the author, who lived through this tumultuous historical period and wrote this book in Prague, makes tangible the heady rush of freedom; his bone-deep understanding gives this transformative period a visceral charge. Agent: Jonathan Pegg, Curtis Brown. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.