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Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta Hardcover – 3 Nov 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Mcclelland & Stewart Ltd (3 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771085370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771085376
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.3 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Product description

Review

..".the real pleasure is Theroux s talent for rendering place and his irreverent comments on everything from the British royals to pop culture, aging, and yes, the venerable Mother Teresa."
-- Publishers Weekly "A novel of extremes rationality and obsession, humanitarianism and selfishness, ecstasy and heartlessness."
-- Kirkus Reviews..".an abundance of richly drawn characters...Theroux has used his travel writer's eye and ear and his novelist's imagination to craft a tense, disturbing, funny and horrifying book around all of them."
-- San Francisco Chronicle"Theroux brings his best gifts as a travel writer to one of his walk-on-the-dark-side fables of masked identity and psychosexual quest [His] writing is as feline and agile as ever, and his calibration of clue and revelation is nicely meted out this story will lure you in, from its whodunit setup to its swift, unexpectedly visionary close."
-- The Seattle Times"

-...the real pleasure is Theroux's talent for rendering place and his irreverent comments on everything from the British royals to pop culture, aging, and yes, the venerable Mother Teresa.-
-- Publishers Weekly -A novel of extremes--rationality and obsession, humanitarianism and selfishness, ecstasy and heartlessness.-
-- Kirkus Reviews -...an abundance of richly drawn characters...Theroux has used his travel writer's eye and ear and his novelist's imagination to craft a tense, disturbing, funny and horrifying book around all of them.-
-- San Francisco Chronicle -Theroux brings his best gifts as a travel writer to one of his walk-on-the-dark-side fables of masked identity and psychosexual quest...[His] writing is as feline and agile as ever, and his calibration of clue and revelation is nicely meted out...this story will lure you in, from its whodunit setup to its swift, unexpectedly visionary close.-
-- The Seattle Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

'The most gifted, the most prodigal writer of his generation' Jonathan Raban

Jerry Delfont is a travel writer with writer's block. Lounging in Calcutta one day, he receives a mysterious letter. It comes from an American philanthropist, Mrs Merrill Unger. An Indian friend of her son is in trouble: he woke up in a hotel room with a dead body next to him; he panicked and fled. Mrs Unger would like someone to discreetly look into this matter, to find out the truth. Will Delfont do her the honour?

But Jerry is at first more intrigued by the beautiful, beguiling Mrs Unger and her Tantric massages. Yet as he begins investigating the circumstances surrounding the body he wonders what exactly is the nature of her philanthropy . . .

A Dead Hand is a dark and twisted narrative of obsession and need from one of our finest writers.

'Genuinely intriguing' The Times

'Original and enlightening' Daily Telegraph

'Theroux's prose is always a pleasure' Tatler

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Set in India, familiar territory for Theroux, 'A Dead Hand` tells the story of a travel writer suffering from writer's block (aka `dead hand') until a chance letter from an American ex-pat, the mysterious Mrs Unger, relating a story of a mystery of a dead body in a hotel leads him to release his creativity in very unexpected ways. The story is more about obsession and infatuation than it is about the mystery itself as the narrator falls under Mrs Unger's Tantric charms. But does she have more to hide than she's letting on?

In the hands of Theroux, a new novel set in the India that he knows so well, what could possibly go wrong? Disappointingly, quite a bit on the evidence of this book.

For a start, both the narrator and the object of his infatuation, Mrs Unger, are far from likeable characters. The writer (Jerry Delfont, although he is hardly, if at all, referred to by his name in the book) comes over as a self-pitying man (and when the narrator has few redeeming qualities it's hart to empathise with him) and he largely fails to convey any of the charms that make the Mrs Unger so appealing to him. Also inexplicably for someone who knows India so well, Theroux fails to invoke much of the mystery of the place.

A further problem I had with the book was that in relating the Tantric activities of Mrs Unger there is clearly a lot of sexual metaphor(the sessions take place in Mrs Unger's `vault') - which is fine although it is repetitious (as is much the first two parts of the book), but he then goes on to make it explicit - `And being inside the vault was like being inside her body'. It seems that he is giving his readers no credit for picking up on his non-too subtle hints. We really can pick up on the hints, Mr Theroux.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating read and intriguing story..... book arrived in good condition and promptly after order placed.. thanks
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Format: Paperback
A DEAD HAND: A CRIME IN CALCUTTA (2010), by Paul Theroux (1941- ), is a long-winded, repetitious, first-person "comeback story" told by a third-rate middle-aged American travel writer named Jerry Delfont. It is set in contemporary India—chiefly in Calcutta—and deals chiefly with Delfont's anxieties that he is washed up as a writer and has no purpose in life ... until he is approached by a beautiful American philanthropist named Mrs. Merrill Unger, who asks him to help Rajat, the young Indian friend of her son Charlie, with a problem: he woke up in a hotel room and found a dead child lying on the floor.

For over 200 pages Delfont worships Mrs. Unger, whom he never calls by her first name. At intervals, she provides him with tantric massages and occasionally permits him to do the same for her. Mainly, Delfont fills scores of his pages (with hardly any variations) with lists of her virtues: "Mrs. Unger is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Helpful, Thrifty, Generous, Loyal, Beautiful, Friendly, Motherly, Kind, Mysterious, Brave, Clean, Loyal, Reverent, Beautiful, Helpful ... and Motherly! And Helpful! Also Beautiful!"

At very distant intervals, unprompted by Mrs. Unger, who seems to have no further interest in the mystery, Delfont makes a few attempts to learn something about the dead child who appeared in Rajat's hotel room. His first "success" occurs one-third of the way into the novel when a young Indian woman gives him a little package containing the dead child's hand. (Previous to this Delfont has used the phrase "a dead hand" when referring to his own problem—writer's block—and at this point he neurotically identifies this child's hand with his own hand.
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Format: Paperback
Paul Theroux (PT) is an acute observer with awesome descriptive powers and able to write from almost any perspective. His capacity to evoke context(London's squatter scene, US diplomats and aid workers, American businessmen at home and abroad)is unsurpassed. Apart from many novels PT also wrote best-selling travel books, collections of reviews and short stories and even a quite good science-fiction novel called "O-Zone"(1986).
This reader found "A Dead Hand" hard to finish to the end because of the suffocating, adulatory writing style of the alter ego author, prompting memories of PT's rather awful "Millroy the Magician".
Since 1968, when his second novel "Fong and the Indians" was published, PT has been fascinated by India and Indians. He has portrayed V.S. Naipaul twice, positively in the early 1970s, very negatively almost three decades later. To date, about ten of PTs books of different genres have focused on India. In his novels, Americans visiting India often succumb to this dirty, noisy, smelly, rat- and germ-infested subcontinent, by ignoring the gap between privilege and destitution.
The raconteur of this novel is a middle-aged US globetrotting travel writer with writer's block ("a dead hand"). Early in the novel he describes rich American ladies as vulnerable to falling victim to a goddess complex. In Calcutta he is contacted by the enchanting, mysterious Mrs. Merrill Unger, a fellow American, who seeks his help in a murder case. They meet. They hardly discuss the case, but Mrs. Unger, a major entrepreneur and philanthropist clad in Indian dress takes instant control of the sorry travel writer's life by enchanting him first, massaging him in the tantric tradition the next day, then taking him to dinner to a shop serving only cooked green vegetables and brown rice.
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