Combined Reviews: A Case of Knives by Peter Rose

case_knives.jpg Reviews of A Case of Knives by Peter Rose.

[This novel has been longlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin award.]

Description from the publisher's page:

"The cast

Julia Collis: a brilliant but unconventional publisher, more than a little controlling of her ménage
Candy Collis: an opera singer with a bright future and a dark mother
Matthew Light: a young actor, taken under Julia's wing as a teenage boy, obsessively in love with Roman Anthem
Roman Anthem: the 21-year-old grandson of a legendary Australian prime minister, renowned for his good looks, despised by Julia

The scene

Valhalla: an incestuous household of steely alliances, lopsided infatuations, and dark impulses

The plot

Roman Anthem is missing and no one knows why.

Witty, satirical and full of intrigue, set against a backdrop of opera, publishing and politics, Peter Rose's first novel is unlike any other Australian fiction."

Michelle Griffen in "The Age" was very impressed with the novel. She notes that Rose has been associated with the Australian publishing scene for some years, currently as editor of Australian Book Review, and wonders if the novel might be read as a sort of roman a clef: "It is cheap entertainment to wonder, in passing, if Julia is based on any of the women who have run Australia's publishing houses, but I think - hope - it unlikely. This may be a novel about a missing man called Roman, but this is not a roman a clef. Rose has written an operatic libretto set in an Australia
askew. He has cut out the silhouettes of the figures that loom large in the cultural reference bank and filled in the spaces with his own more vivid characters...In the end, former publisher Rose has written the sort of book publishers always wish their authors would deliver - a clever, juicy thriller with lots of sex and intrigue and just enough 'guess-who-won't-sue' buzz to attract interest beyond the bookstore. It is so completely different from his previous book that it could have been written by his evil twin. It must have
been fun to write - it was fun to read."

Gillian Dooley in "The Adelaide Review" seems a little thrown by the very existence of this book, slightly surprised it's a crime novel rather than "a slim, poetic volume". In any event she finds something to like about it: "I'm not sure how seriously Peter Rose wants us to take this novel. Less care has been taken with the editing than one would normally expect from someone of his experience in publishing. Nevertheless, this background has provided a setting he satirises with obvious relish, along with
other institutions like politics, the media, the theatre world and the AFL. And despite a few technical faults, A Case of Knives is engrossing and entertaining with some sharply drawn characters. Though more finely written, it could take its place alongside popular melodramatic blockbusters in the airport newsagent."

Denise Pickles, in the Mary Martin Bookshop newsletter, was also a bit confused at the start, but for a different reason: "It is fortunate that the author was considerate enough to present a cast of characters at the beginning of the book. I must admit I had to resort to it continually, to begin with." But she moved on from that and discovered that "This is a witty, sometimes malicious, romp, well written (the author has previously won an award for his biography Rose Boys) and plotted, with excellent characterisation. The themes being what they are, it is possible readers may never again regard the worlds of politics, publishing, theatre and opera in quite the same light as hitherto."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 19, 2006 3:00 PM.

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Great Australian Authors #24 - John Shaw Neilson is the next entry in this blog.

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