How far would you go to hide the truth of your past? Would you risk your job, your marriage, perhaps even your life? This is the quandary Anton Waker faces in The Singer’s Gun, Emily St. John Mandel’s second literary thriller. He has always longed for a normal life, but Anton is not like most people; his parents make their living dealing in stolen antiques, and he and his cousin Aria started an underground business that is far worse. Anton vows to leave his life of crime behind him, but just weeks before his wedding, Aria tells him she needs his help closing a deal. If Anton refuses this one last task, she’ll be forced to tell his fiancée who he really is. So it is that Anton finds himself returning to his old life in order to keep his new one, all the while praying he doesn’t lose everything as a result.
The Singer’s Gun is a nail-biting thriller overflowing with high-stakes issues such as blackmail, theft, fraud and human trafficking. In Mandel’s hands, these acts are transmuted into a morally nebulous gray zone, in which the complexities of life fail to be easily captured in terms of black and white, right and wrong. At times the characters’ motivations are inscrutable, and not all plot threads are neatly bound at the novel’s conclusion, but this is a turbulent and diverting read that manages to both entertain and prompt valuable contemplation of its stickier issues.