Nigerian novelist and poet Chris Abani’s latest book, The Secret History of Las Vegas, was published this month by Penguin USA. The crime novel is set in Las Vegas and features a South African character, Dr. Sunil Singh, a specialist in the study of psychopaths who is “haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid.”
Publishers Weekly writes that Abani “effortlessly captures the essence of Sin City” and that “lambent prose lifts this offbeat crime novel.”
Read the short review from Publishers Weekly and an excerpt from the book shared by Penguin USA:
Lambent prose lifts this offbeat crime novel from PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Abani (The Virgin of Flames), who effortlessly captures the essence of Sin City: “Here in Vegas the glamour beguiled and blinded all but those truly intent on seeing, and in this way the tinsel of it mocked the obsessive hope of those who flocked there.” Two years after “dead homeless men had begun appearing in dumps of ten,” the body dumps resume.
The dying sun burnished the copper ingot of the Mandalay Bay. Next to it was the pyramid of the Luxor and, reclining in front, the light catching the gold paint of its headdress, the Sphinx. Farther to Sunil’s left, the Bellagio and the tip of the Eiffel Tower rose above Paris Las Vegas. The Venetian, his favorite, was obscured.
He loved this moment when the sun was on a slow decline, just before the abruptness of night that seemed exclusive to deserts and plains. It reminded him of the light on the South African veld. One moment bright and full, the next, gone. The veld was just like its name, a stubby felt of grass and trees and small hills that seemed to break only when the green and brown rim of it touched the sky.
Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.
Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.
About the author
Chris Abani is the author of the acclaimed novels GraceLand, which was shortlisted for the Dublin International IMPAC Award and won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and The Virgin of the Flames, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, as well as several collections of poetry. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN USA Open Book Award and PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and has three Pushcart nominations to his name. He was born in Nigeria and currently teaches at the University of California, Riverside.