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Paul Theroux returns to India with a stylish and gripping novel of crime and obsession in Calcutta.

In A Dead Hand, Paul Theroux brings to dramatic life a dark and twisted narrative of obsession and need. When Jerry Delfont, a travel writer with writer’s block, receives a letter from a captivating and seductive American philanthropist with news of a scandal involving an Indian friend of her son’s, he is sufficiently intrigued to pursue the story. Who is the boy found on the floor of a cheap hotel room, how and why did he die — what is it that pulls Delfont into this story, and will he ever find the truth about what happened?


From the Hardcover edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9781551993195
List price: $19.99
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Availability for A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta
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I enjoyed the setting and descriptions of Calcutta; I liked the mystery within the story; I did not enjoy the painful paragraphs dealing with the protagonist's feelings, reactions, and longings for Mrs. Unger. I found it very repetitious and felt it would have made a great suspenseful mystery if Mr. Theroux had developed that theme more and spent less time describing the writer's almost "adolescent" obsession with the saintly philanthropist. Hard to believe all that. I felt other characters could have been developed more fully to add to the plot and I kept reading because I wanted it to meet my expectations. It did not.more
Had a real problem with the main female character and the hero's infatuation. Just didn't ring true.more
Known for his travel essays, Paul releases a novel that takes us to the hidden areas of Calcutta not commonly visited by tourists. A travel writer with writer's block, receives a letter that intrigues him. He decides to visit the author of the letter and in doing so, he is unwittingly drawn into a mysterious woman's web of tantric massages, the slums of Calcutta, orphaned children, rescued children, temple sacrifices, oh and a dead body wrapped in a carpet that appeared one evening in an Indian boy's hotel room.Who's the dead boy? Why was he sought out to help? Who really is this mysterious rich woman who seems to do so much for the poor children in India? What really lies behind the iron gates of her mansion? What is her son hiding?Theroux has a wonderful way of describing places and scenes that is so evocative you feel as if you're there. You feel the heat, the dust and you smell the poverty, the fear and the ecstasy. And just when you're sitting comfortably in the story, he injects a prickling down the back of your neck. Nothing is as they appear, but what are the risks of delving into the mystery to find the truth?more
This book is not up to the standard of Theroux's best fiction. It's as if Theroux said to himself: murder mysteries look easy to write - I think I will try one. In any event the words "dead hand" in the title refer both to the protagonist - a travel writer suffering writer's block - and a clue to a murder. Although the book does not succeed as great fiction, it does succeed in being wonderfully evocative of India. Think of it as fictional travel writing - Theroux's true metier. In this way, the book reminds me of Cuba And The Night by Pico Iyer. This is a like work of failed fiction by a great travel writer, which book nevertheless beautifully captures a sense of place. For a chuckle, Theroux also works his real persona in as a travel writer.more
"A Dead Hand" is a murder mystery. Jerry Dalfont, a travel writer with writer's block, a "dead hand," is in Calcutta at loose ends since he cannot write. He is summoned by Mrs. Unger, an rich American philanthropist, to solve the mystery of the body of a small boy discovered in the hotel room of one of her employees.As he works on the mystery Unger works on him. She takes him under wing and teaches him all about Trantric massages and reveals her Hindu side. In the meantime Dalfont works with the local police and pokes around a little on his own.An interesting part of the book is when Dalfont meets the famous travel writer, Paul Theroux, in Calcutta. Theroux is not too complimentary of himself in the encounter. I had never read a writer writing himself in the story before.The book was ok but I definitely didn't love it. It needed a little less Tantric sex and lot more story and character development. The book telegraphs the end pretty far out. I rate this 1.5 stars out of 4. I love Theroux's non-fiction but I've never quite got into his fiction.more
Not enough time. Will try to get again. Started it and it seemed interesting.more
He writes well, but overall this is not my kind of story. More sex than I like, a mystery I never got all that involved in. I would not recommend it as a way to learn more about India.On the other hand, assorted paragraphs about the writer's life, travel writing, writer's block, and a visit between the narrator and Paul Theroux were very interesting.more
A good read. The story had me intrigued and I finished reading it in two sittings as I wanted to know if my suspicion would be confirmed.more
Read all 8 reviews

Reviews

I enjoyed the setting and descriptions of Calcutta; I liked the mystery within the story; I did not enjoy the painful paragraphs dealing with the protagonist's feelings, reactions, and longings for Mrs. Unger. I found it very repetitious and felt it would have made a great suspenseful mystery if Mr. Theroux had developed that theme more and spent less time describing the writer's almost "adolescent" obsession with the saintly philanthropist. Hard to believe all that. I felt other characters could have been developed more fully to add to the plot and I kept reading because I wanted it to meet my expectations. It did not.more
Had a real problem with the main female character and the hero's infatuation. Just didn't ring true.more
Known for his travel essays, Paul releases a novel that takes us to the hidden areas of Calcutta not commonly visited by tourists. A travel writer with writer's block, receives a letter that intrigues him. He decides to visit the author of the letter and in doing so, he is unwittingly drawn into a mysterious woman's web of tantric massages, the slums of Calcutta, orphaned children, rescued children, temple sacrifices, oh and a dead body wrapped in a carpet that appeared one evening in an Indian boy's hotel room.Who's the dead boy? Why was he sought out to help? Who really is this mysterious rich woman who seems to do so much for the poor children in India? What really lies behind the iron gates of her mansion? What is her son hiding?Theroux has a wonderful way of describing places and scenes that is so evocative you feel as if you're there. You feel the heat, the dust and you smell the poverty, the fear and the ecstasy. And just when you're sitting comfortably in the story, he injects a prickling down the back of your neck. Nothing is as they appear, but what are the risks of delving into the mystery to find the truth?more
This book is not up to the standard of Theroux's best fiction. It's as if Theroux said to himself: murder mysteries look easy to write - I think I will try one. In any event the words "dead hand" in the title refer both to the protagonist - a travel writer suffering writer's block - and a clue to a murder. Although the book does not succeed as great fiction, it does succeed in being wonderfully evocative of India. Think of it as fictional travel writing - Theroux's true metier. In this way, the book reminds me of Cuba And The Night by Pico Iyer. This is a like work of failed fiction by a great travel writer, which book nevertheless beautifully captures a sense of place. For a chuckle, Theroux also works his real persona in as a travel writer.more
"A Dead Hand" is a murder mystery. Jerry Dalfont, a travel writer with writer's block, a "dead hand," is in Calcutta at loose ends since he cannot write. He is summoned by Mrs. Unger, an rich American philanthropist, to solve the mystery of the body of a small boy discovered in the hotel room of one of her employees.As he works on the mystery Unger works on him. She takes him under wing and teaches him all about Trantric massages and reveals her Hindu side. In the meantime Dalfont works with the local police and pokes around a little on his own.An interesting part of the book is when Dalfont meets the famous travel writer, Paul Theroux, in Calcutta. Theroux is not too complimentary of himself in the encounter. I had never read a writer writing himself in the story before.The book was ok but I definitely didn't love it. It needed a little less Tantric sex and lot more story and character development. The book telegraphs the end pretty far out. I rate this 1.5 stars out of 4. I love Theroux's non-fiction but I've never quite got into his fiction.more
Not enough time. Will try to get again. Started it and it seemed interesting.more
He writes well, but overall this is not my kind of story. More sex than I like, a mystery I never got all that involved in. I would not recommend it as a way to learn more about India.On the other hand, assorted paragraphs about the writer's life, travel writing, writer's block, and a visit between the narrator and Paul Theroux were very interesting.more
A good read. The story had me intrigued and I finished reading it in two sittings as I wanted to know if my suspicion would be confirmed.more
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