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Incendiary

C+

”Dear Osama they want you dead or alive so the terror will stop. Well I wouldn’t know about that I mean rock ‘n’ roll didn’t stop when Elvis died on the khazi it just got worse.” So begins Chris Cleave’s timely but chaotic first novel. The narrator is an unnamed Londoner who composes a rambling, heartfelt letter to Osama bin Laden following the death of her husband and son in a terrorist attack. Uneducated, guileless, and earthy, this character has real charm and originality. But Cleave never gives her anything believable to do. Instead, he has cooked up a cockeyed plot involving a ménage à trois with a wealthy and manipulative couple and a sinister government cover-up. Like other ambitious volumes in the rising tower of post-9/11 novels, Incendiary struggles to both chronicle a personal ordeal and make a grandiose statement about the world today, and succeeds at neither.

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