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Book review > “Forgery” July 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life.

Artifacts and artifice vie for attention in “Forgery,” a stylish new novel from Sabina Murray. Winner of the PEN/Faulkner award in 2003 for a World War II-era story collection titled “The Caprices,” Murray sets her latest tale in sun-drenched Greece in 1963.

In “Forgery,” Cold War paranoia throws fleet shadows across a backdrop of glorious ancient ruins and pragmatic modern concrete. But ruthless ambition and terrible personal loss lurk deeper in the shadows of this story.

Rupert Brigg is a 30-year-old American, sent by his doting uncle to Europe after the drowning death of Rupert’s 2-year-old son and the resulting disintegration of his marriage. Rupert is to spend the summer looking for additions to his uncle’s classical art collection. As a seasoned New York auction-house employee, he has a good eye for what’s authentic and what’s fake.

But art is one thing, and relationships are another. How can he distinguish between the con men and the legitimate dealers? And when he travels to an island off the beaten tourist track and finds himself drawn into a circle of dazzling and hedonistic tourists, it’s even harder to figure out whom to trust. It becomes clear that this is not an idle concern when one of the party turns up murdered.

With assurance and style, Murray plumbs issues of identity and provenance. She plays with notions of deceit and of rebellion on levels ranging from personal to political. Despite the seductive narrative and compelling themes, this story has a hollow core. The fault is in the character of Rupert. Murray has dutifully invested her leading man with all sorts of tragic secrets, but he repeatedly evinces himself in a lightweight manner.

This may well prevent the reader from completely capitulating to the fascinating world Murray has fabricated in “Forgery.”

“Forgery”, by Sabina Murray, Grove Press, 248 pp., $24.

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