The Hidden Keys
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 TRILLIUM BOOK AWARD
NATIONAL POST 99 BEST BOOKS OF 2016
Giller Prize winner André Alexis’s contemporary take on the quest narrative is an instant classic.
Parkdale’s Green Dolphin is a bar of ill repute, and it is there that Tancred Palmieri, a thief with elegant and erudite tastes, meets Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides one clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and help her solve the puzzle.
A Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, a bottle of aquavit, a framed poem and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: Tancred is lured in to this beguiling quest, and even though Willow dies before the puzzle is solved, he presses on.
As he tracks down the treasure, he must enlist the help of Alexander von Würfel, conceptual artist and taxidermist to the wealthy, and fend off Willow’s heroin dealers, a young albino named ‘Nigger’ Colby and his sidekick, Sigismund ‘Freud’ Luxemburg, a clubfooted psychopath, both of whom are eager to get their hands on this supposed pot of gold. And he must mislead Detective Daniel Mandelshtam, his most adored friend.
Inspired by a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be honourable, what it means to be faithful and what it means to sin.
‘André Alexis did not rest on his laurels after winning the Giller … The Hidden Keys brings to the forefront all the wit, grit, and talent we have come to expect from the reigning Canadian Fiction champ.’
– Libraire Drawn & Quarterly Book of the Week on Largehearted Boy
"It is difficult to convey how gracefully Alexis is able to conjure such baroque minutia without slipping into mannered excess. Just as it is difficult to convey Alexis's way of avoiding the trappings of genre while offering, in this case, all the essential pleasures of a crime novel: The Hidden Keys is somewhat akin to Elmore Leonard in its attention to idiosyncratic personal style and providing even minor players with active inner lives. " —The Globe and Mail
"A witty, punchy, loquacious novel . . . Fun, propulsive reading that really is about the hunt, not the treasure. " —Library Journal
"The mystery itself does not disappoint, though the events that lead up to the reveal are as much of a gift as the endpoint itself. This unique adventure is a joyful and intelligent undertaking. "—Foreword Reviews
"André Alexis did not rest on his laurels after winning the Giller … The Hidden Keys brings to the forefront all the wit, grit, and talent we have come to expect from the reigning Canadian Fiction champ. " —Libraire Drawn & Quarterly Book of the Week on Largehearted Boy
"This gorgeously written, funny adventure tale will keep readers up finishing it while also quietly breaking their hearts with Alexis's keen observations of people, kindness, and cruelty. " —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Alexis shapes his mash-up of ancient tropes and ironic flicks into a wonderful story about fate and family, mainly by peopling it with characters who are simultaneously archetypes and believable individuals. And the puzzle is pretty good, too. " —Maclean's
"Alexis is a literary cartographer of the highest calibre and The Hidden Keys should be book-marked on everyone's map. " —Hamilton Review of Books
"Even though the book is an old-fashioned quest yarn, Alexis's immense talent gives it an archetypal patina, glossing characters with shades of honor and subtlety that might have been missed in lesser hands. " —Kirkus Reviews
"[An] intellectual adventure yarn . . . Great fun. " —The Wall Street Journal
"Though Tancred contains multitudes, one of Alexis's best tricks involves diverging from his hero's point of view to introduce a whole host of peripheral figures . . . Nobody is a mere archetype in Alexis's universe, and far from digressions (or generic concessions), these subplots suggest the humane, egalitarian sensibility of a writer who's reluctant to simply instrumentalize his characters. " —Quill & Quire