Sabina Murray’s first book since she won the PEN/Faulkner Award for The Caprices seduces with its dark delight in her taboo subject. When we meet Katherine, the winning—and rather disturbing—twenty-three-year-old narrator, she has just left Italy and arrived in New York City, but what has propelled her there is a mystery. She soon strikes up an affair with a middle-aged Russian émigré novelist she meets on the subway, and almost immediately moves into his apartment. Katherine’s occasional allusions to a frighteningly eccentric mother and tyrannical father suggest a somberness at the center of her otherwise flippant and sardonic demeanor. Soon restless, she begins journeying from literary New York to rural Maine and Mexico City, trailed, everywhere she goes, by a string of murders. As the ritualistic killings begin to pile up, Katherine takes to meditating on cannibalism in literature, art, and history, and examining subjects as diverse as the Donner Party, the fall of Dante’s Count Ugolino, and the true story behind Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa.” The story races toward a hair-raising conclusion, while Katherine and the reader close in on the reasons for both her and her mother’s fascination with aberrant, violent behavior. This is a novel of ideas and a brilliantly subtle commentary on twenty-first-century consumerism and Western culture’s obsession with new frontiers. Told in highly intelligent prose “with echoes of both Poe and Patrick McGrath” (Book Forum), A Carnivore’s Inquiry is a sly, unsettling exploration of the questionable appetites that lurk beneath the veneer of North American civilization.
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