The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis

Coach House Books, 2016
Coach House Books, 2016

A Fiction pick by Jean-Louis

Anyone who follows the book prizes in Canada will recognize the name of Andre Alexis. Many of his novels have been nominated for awards and last year he took home the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller prize for his highly successful novel Fifteen Dogs.

Alexis kept his nose to the grindstone and this year he brought out the new novel, The Hidden Keys. This is the third novel in what Alexis calls a quincunx–a series of five novels that each give a nod to a certain kind of storytelling. The first novel of the series was Pastoral, a novel set in a bucolic setting featuring a young pastor. Last year’s Fifteen Dogs was a kind of fable / animal wisdom novel, and this year’s The Hidden Keys, is a nod to the treasure narrative. Alexis is actively revisiting types of stories that had an impact on his own writing and this latest novel is inspired by Treasure Island.

Tancred Palmieri is a small time thief who operates by a very strong moral code. Tancred is a kind soul who, despite his own preferences, is fiercely loyal. One of the characters he develops a loyalty to is Willow Azarian, a notorious heroin addict who also happens to be heiress to a vast fortune.

As the friendship between Tancred and Willow evolves, she engages Tancred to help her solve a family mystery. Her father, upon his death, left each of his five children a legacy item which Willow believes will lead them to an even greater fortune. With his promise made, Tancred is drawn further and further into the mystery in search of a real or imagined treasure. Along the way he will have to deal with drug dealing cut throats and also with his best friend, who just happens to be a police detective.

Alexis has written an exciting book which truly honors the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Read the book and discover the treasure for yourself. And now we wait to see what books Alexis will write to complete the quincunx.

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