The Hid­den Keys

An­dré Alexis

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Coach House Books Soft­cover $17.95 (232pp) 978-1-55245-325-4

This is a joy­ful and in­tel­li­gent ad­ven­ture, pop­u­lated by hon­or­able thieves and win­some mis­fits.

An­dré Alexis’s The Hid­den Keys is set in the back al­leys and con­cealed cor­ners of Toronto, places pop­u­lated by hon­or­able thieves and win­some mis­fits, pep­pered with pen­e­tra­ble fortresses and col­ored by hope. In this novel that teems with quiet beauty, a trou­bled woman’s trea­sure hunt sends those around her tum­bling to­ward dis­cov­ery.

When Tan­cred first en­coun­ters Wil­low Azar­ian at a de­crepit bar, she does not ap­pear to to be the

kind of woman who trans­forms a man’s for­tunes. In the last thralls of drug ad­dic­tion, she re­lates to him a story: she is the daugh­ter of a bil­lion­aire, be­queathed one in a se­ries of elab­o­rate clues that may lead to for­tunes un­fath­omable. Tan­cred is du­bi­ous, but Wil­low’s story checks out, and he is bound to fol­low the trail, even af­ter her death.

Tan­cred proves to be a gen­tle­man of a thief: he is re­luc­tant to break any prom­ise made to Wil­low but is equally re­luc­tant to in­volve his friends, par­tic­u­larly Daniel, the de­tec­tive work­ing to dis­cover who’s steal­ing the Azar­i­ans’ ar­ti­facts. He com­pro­mises his own safety more than once, to pro­tect oth­ers, and pre­serves his own in­tegrity, even when de­ceiv­ing his way into Azar­ian homes. Two less sa­vory fig­ures from the neigh­bor­hood are at his heels, though, and are de­ter­mined to snatch away what­ever trea­sure awaits him.

The nar­ra­tive un­folds with el­e­gance, fol­low­ing Tan­cred through a se­ries of im­prob­a­ble heists that in­volve di­rec­tions re­layed in verse and mi­crochips em­bed­ded in pros­thetic parts. Com­pelling fam­ily sto­ries—from Tan­cred and Wil­low, but also from those who re­volve around them, in­clud­ing the novel’s vil­lains—drive the plot as much as the prom­ise of wealth, and Tan­cred’s sense of honor, even in the midst of vi­o­lence and be­trayal, is a con­tin­ual source of charm. Philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings, bit­ing hu­mor, in­ven­tive de­tails, and evoca­tive lines only add to the story’s ap­peal.

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.

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