A Very Private Gentleman: A Novel

A Very Private Gentleman: A Novel

4.5 7
by Martin Booth

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From the Booker shortlisted author of Islands of Silence and The Industry of Souls comes a fascinating portrait of a man with a double life and a dark trade.
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From the Booker shortlisted author of Islands of Silence and The Industry of Souls comes a fascinating portrait of a man with a double life and a dark trade.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Booth's brilliantly creepy psychological suspense novel follows a so-called "shadow-dweller" (a technical weapons expert who creates and supplies the tools for high-level assassins) to a rural village in southern Italy where he poses as "Signor Farfalla," a quiet artist who paints miniatures of butterflies and has traveled to the area to capture a unique native specimen. As the artist, whose real name is Clark, settles into the local scene, most of his new acquaintances accept his enigmatic alias, with the notable exception of Father Benedetto, the priest who pushes him to reveal himself in a series of confessional conversations over glasses of Armagnac. Between painting the minutely detailed butterfly studies and preparing for his next job, Clark carouses with a pair of local prostitutes, Dindina and Clara, eventually slipping into a serious affair with the latter. As he gets weapons specs and begins constructing a new gun, he learns that his latest customer is a woman whose next target may be Yasser Arafat. Suddenly he senses another "shadow-dweller" on his trail; this anonymous figure remains a mystery to Clark until their climactic showdown. The lazy, languid setting is an eerily effective backdrop for the fresh and beguiling murder intrigue, and the flashbacks into Clark's cold, brutal past are cleverly juxtaposed against his budding romance with young, na ve Clara. With first-rate characters and a gradual buildup of suspense, Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor's classic Felicia's Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"Burn a body slowly and it chars then melts like rubber. I have seen it." Judging by that phrase, typical of the writing throughout, Clint Eastwood should option Booth's latest ASAP. Booth (Jungle Lore) sets his novel in rural Italy, where an aging, nameless "underworld" traveler known locally as insect painter Signor Farfalla ("butterfly") contracts for his last job. At first we think him a hit man, but he is in fact a "shadow-dweller," an artisan who creates and supplies the tools for assassins. Well read, appreciative of wines and cheeses, and an ethicist in his own way, Signor Farfalla comes to love his sun-dappled ancient village, his conversations with the priest, and his paramour, Clara, and dreams of retiring. True, he has spent his life watchful of those in his fraternity out to do him harm, but he dreams nevertheless. Suspense builds artfully in this classy novel, and the prose is measured carefully. Even the use of first-person narration doesn't diminish the sense of uncertainty. For any library collecting literary suspense.-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful armorer to the world's finest assassins ponders the possibilities of Italian retirement. His rather specialized occupation has made it necessary for Edmund "Mr. Butterfly" (the name given him by the locals-if you knew his last name . . . ) to move about often, but perhaps it's time to hang up the tools. He has enough money. He has the respect of his industry. He has a lovely apartment overlooking a totally agreeable town somewhere in the Italian mountains, convenient to the autostrada and to Rome, but utterly private. He has the love of a very sweet young whore working her way through college and access to another when he's feeling extra companionable. The local priest is not only intelligent and perceptive, but he smokes his own prosciutto (against the law, but this is Italy). And he has a satisfying assignment to close out his working days. The fly in the ointment is the man in the shadow, a stranger stalking Edmund as he makes his way around the village and even in the countryside where he goes to check the working of his last custom sniper rifle. Edmund is not himself a professional killer. He simply makes it possible for the pros to do their best. But he has not survived this long without a few pragmatic solutions. And it would be most regrettable if the stalker of the moment should force a confrontation here in this most pleasant potential retirement spot. Do we believe any of this? Hard to say. Booth (Islands of Silence, 2003, etc.) has no trouble creating the beautifully detailed thoughts of this cool customer, but it may be difficult for some readers to believe the combination of intellect and industrial skills. Others may find the sweethearted working girl a bit ofa stretch. The scenery, however, is always exquisite. Bitter, but possibly good for you. Like those Italian digestive liquori.

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Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
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