By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated February 07, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

A wonderfully written thriller that holds its spell until the final, surprising denouement, Famine begins as a nameless detective discovers a body in an old Manhattan apartment and then goes slightly AWOL from his department, conducting his own maverick investigation into the corpse’s life. Meanwhile, Daniel — the corpse — tells his own story, alternating chapters with the man who would be his biographer. The truths and half-truths pile up — about Daniel’s deceased younger brother, victim of a fatal childhood accident; his wife, Emma, whom he met while both were recuperating in a mental hospital; the fly-by-night visitors to the homeless shelter where Daniel volunteered; and the denizens of the downtown bar where the couple worked. The mysteries of the human psyche here are at least as absorbing as the whodunit; Famine‘s achievement is that both are compellingly resolved.

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