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The Singer's Gun
Excerpts from particularly flattering reviews:

“Big in concept, flawless in tone, The Singer's Gun is a tender and astounding tour de force."
-Mystery Scene

“Mandel's talent is clearly visible from the get-go ... The beauty of the novel is that its key truths are those the reader arrives at on his or her own, without the help of a straight-line narrative or a dominating perspective. Instead, Mandel feeds off of our need to make connections, even when the pattern they form doesn't really exist. We start with anxiety and end with it, thrumming in the background for us to listen in -- or ignore, at both cost and reward."
-Los Angeles Times

“The Singer's Gun begins like a straightforward crime thriller... But Emily St. John Mandel's new novel is something far rarer than this classic noir opening suggests. She introduces us to haunted, often fugitive individuals stranded in places from New York to Italy, from the past to the present. And her book strikes a perfect balance between introspection and action... an eminently satisfying thriller."
-The Washington Post

“A gripping, thoughtful meditation on work, family, and the consequences of major life choices."
-Booklist

“In this intricate novel, her second after Last Night in Montreal, Mandel underscores the notion that everything in life comes with a price tag, and sometimes that cost is remarkably high. ... An intriguing and suspenseful read that will appeal to those who like mysteries."
-Library Journal

“The Singer's Gun is a nail-biting thriller overflowing with high-stakes issues such as blackmail, theft, fraud and human trafficking. In Mandel's hands, these acts are transmuted into a morally nebulous gray zone, in which the complexities of life fail to be easily captured in terms of black and white, right and wrong. ... This is a turbulent and diverting read that manages to both entertain and prompt valuable contemplation of its stickier issues."
-BookPage

“In The Singer's Gun, author Emily St. John Mandel deftly creates a growing sense of menace and isolation as Aria asks Anton, now honeymooning off the coast of Italy, to do one more favor for her. The results are tragic. This is a gripping story, full of moral ambiguities, where deception and betrayal become the norm, and where the expression, "a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," is lifted to new heights."
-The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“More than a thriller, Emily St. John Mandel's second novel (after Last Night in Montreal) is an extraordinarily written meditation on identity, chance and choice. ... Her ability to evoke a mind-numbing day in the office, a tourist paradise in the off-season and everything in between is nothing short of breathtaking."
-The Howard County Times

“With a combination of richly imagined characters, heart-stopping suspense, and an unending supply of moral quandaries to ponder philosophically, The Singer's Gun -- part thriller, part love story -- left me breathless. "
-The Internet Review of Books

“The whole tone of The Singer's Gun is a little bit mysterious and a little bit dark as the story slowly and carefully unfolds. ... It's an intelligent, well-crafted thriller with characters that are complex enough to hook the reader."
-Five Borough Book Review

“The Singer's Gun is an even better novel than Last Night in Montreal. Both are that rare bird of literary novels where the pages turn themselves. But while Last Night relied strongly on mystery and mood, forming an elliptical series of evocative snapshots, The Singer's Gun is richer, meatier, striking far more notes -- it takes those moody elements and raises them (the stakes and the craft) so that what emerges defies categorization. We begin almost in a dystopian comedy that is truly, darkly hilarious. But soon enough, Singer's Gun becomes a character study, too. A travelogue. A meditation on guilt and redemption. A family drama. A love story. An exploration of moral ambiguity. And yes, throughout it remains a page-turning thriller, with beautiful prose sharp and clear as ice."
-Gina Frangello, The Nervous Breakdown

“[Mandel] is a terrific writer, that rare real thing, mixing an acute eye with humor and pathos. The Singer's Gun is a tremendous leap forward, a happy indicator that Mandel's talent is a deep one. ... Don't read The Singer's Gun while commuting to work. You just might miss your stop."
-Popmatters

“The Singer's Gun [is] quite brilliant."
-Spinetingler Magazine

Praise from booksellers

“The Singer's Gun moves quickly and might be shelved in crime fiction were it not for Mandel's beautiful prose and her ability to create subtle characters who are neither all good nor all bad. Readers are likely to become attached to Anton and his dreams and root for him all the way. Fine, fine writing all the way through. "
-Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights, Iowa City

“The Singer's Gun fulfills all the promise held by Last Night in Montreal, which was my choice for best debut novel of 2009. While in some ways Emily St. John Mandel's novels defy classification, the appeal of her work is wide. The Singer's Gun is a taught, restrained book with a quick hook and a long pull. More than that, though, The Singer's Gun reads refreshingly against the grain of so much commercial literary fiction that is full of cute tricks and slick, self-impressed prose. It is a moving and mysterious work, wholly authentic, and I look forward to following this outstanding novelist's career for many years."
-Jason Hafer, Wolfgang Books, Phoenixville, PA

“Mandel has managed a heady, indeed dreamlike mixing of a sort of literary soul-searching amidst the ennui of modern Everyman life, and a rich and strange, violent and dangerous and globe-spanning storyline. If the tone is reminiscent of the post-Franzen and McSweeney's school of alienation and drift, the story is almost a boy's adventure novel, or one of the darker practitioners of thriller writing (Vachs or Connelly). It's disorienting and haunting, addictive and thought-provoking, and it doesn't go away when you're done reading.

“... But for me the most powerful thing about Mandel's second novel are the odd, very dreamlike images that have stayed with me. A shipping container full of scared Russian girls sitting in a circle, waiting for someone to let them out. A basketball on a dirty, glass-strewn Manhattan roof, surrounded by those shining office buildings. A white hotel looking out on the beach at Ischia. A warehouse in Williamsburg full of salvaged treasures. And of course, the image in the title, which is such a huge and weird and unexpected plot point that I didn't realize its significance until I finished the book and turned it over to look at the front again. I'm not going to steal from you the shock of that discovery -- you'll just have to get deep into Mandel's strange and haunting and very real world and find out for yourself."
-Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn

“I loved The Singer's Gun, as I knew I would! ... It truly is one you can't put down. The characters are so perfectly drawn, and the intrigue and action is mesmerizing. I especially loved Anton's conflicting relationship with his family, how his parent's failings are presented in a way that portrays everyday life and unconditional love."
-Susan Krall, Off The Beaten Path, Steamboat Springs, CO

“Ten pages into this pitch perfect novel the power went out. Oh no, I groped around in the dark until I found my headlamp and then settled back down for 4 more hours of reading. I just couldn't put this book down. Mandel's character are so beautifully developed and the story is so unique I just loved this book."
-Sue Richardson, Maine Coast Book Shop, Damariscotta, Maine.

“The Singer's Gun is marvelously crafted. This story, with its jumps in time and complex characters, soars under Mandel's crisp prose and strong talent for storytelling. Mandel has written a lovely, intimate book that gave me permission to ignore the laundry pile and the telephone and immerse myself in Anton, Aria and Elena's world."
-Sarah Tavis, Orca Books, Olympia

“Emily St. John Mandel's second novel, The Singer's Gun, proves she is a writer to watch out for. Anton Waker wants out of the life of corruption he grew up with. Unfortunately, it isn't an easy thing to shake. Elena, a college drop-out in the US illegally, wants never to return to her isolated hometown again. These two form a love based on half-truths and outright lies told by Mandel with unflinching honesty. This is a novel of suspense, mystery, and of international intrigue. It's one of family loyalties, of the haunting price we pay when we want to go out on our own. I can't wait to handsell this one!"
-Joe Eichman, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver

“The Singer's Gun is simultaneously a page-turner and a finely written piece of literary fiction. Fans of the tv show THE WIRE will find much to like in a story that is a meditation on identity, criminal behavior, and the boundaries of love. I was a fan of Mandel after reading Last Night in Montreal; and now after reading The Singer's Gun I can truly say she is one of the most talented young novelists out there."
-Michele Filgate, RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth

“The Singer's Gun is a taut book; it's a thriller written with beautiful language. Not a word is wasted. It's proof that Emily St. John Mandel will be with us for a long time! And we will be the ones who benefit. Highly recommended."
-Nancy Simpson, Book Vault, Oskaloosa

“A literary thriller with heft that moves so smoothly it's almost as if you're not reading at all but dreaming this excellent story of crime, passion, and betrayal."
-Pete Mock, McIntyre's Books, Pittsboro, NC

“Mandel's newest offering is the best sort of book: thrilling, provocative, and gorgeously written. 'The Singer's Gun' will appeal to mystery lovers, literature lovers, and everyone in between. Absolutely not to be missed!"
-Gina Glenn-Moon, Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe, Asheville, NC

“The Singer's Gun is as riveting as any suspense novel and as beautifully written as any literary fiction you can find. I was so involved in the story that I gasped out loud when I realized where Mandel was taking us."
-Lisa Sharp, Nightbird Books, Fayetteville, AR

“When I first read Last Night in Montreal I said to myself this (and books like this) is why I became a bookseller in the first place. Well, after having finished The Singer's Gun I have to say it again. When one finds a new author who writes a book you lose yourself in and follows it up with some as good or better, well, this makes life worth living.

“Beginning in a bureaucratic hell worthy of Kafka, [The Singer's Gun] turns into something wholly unexpected and surprising. ... it is a wonderful book that I couldn't put down about people trying to find themselves a home, somewhere to belong. And they find it not in a place or a job but in a person and a cat.

“The best books tend to reach out and speak to you and you alone and these people spoke to me. Their concerns about jobs and the soul destroying nature of the workaday world, their quiet desperation about what life has dealt out to them and the hope at the end struck a cord deep within me.

“Thanks so much for sending me the manuscript of this book. It is one of those quiet books that speaks loudly of the human condition and of two people caught up in it all."
-Micheal Fraser, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“Reads like an enchantment. Stunning. Anton Waker wants a moral life, a simple everday American job, to do anything other than follow in his family's shady footsteps. His one mistake is to start his new life with a lie he can never take back. Anton's thinking is seductively convincing. He makes us believe his good intentions as much as he does. It is scary how relatable he is."
-Laura Hansen, Bookin' It, Little Falls, MN

“The Singer's Gun is a model for writers everywhere: Emily St. John Mandel has been both daring and adept with the structure, characters, and plot of this great story. Here is a book that should be taught in English classes, yet it's as compellingly read as any first-rate thriller. Mandel is world-wise enough to accurately map the faultlines of her characters (and our world), and idealistic enough to show us the beautiful light that shines through the cracks."
-Hap Houlihan, The Morris Book Shop, Lexington, Kentucky

“Emily St. John Mandel's new novel, The Singer's Gun, is a wonderful read -- one of those great books that come along once in a while. You just can't neatly put in a category. It has so much to offer -- family relationships, loyalty questions, the struggle to rise above questionable circumstances, and an on and off wedding. But most of all it is a finely written novel."
-Mary Gay Shipley, That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR

“Making good on the promise she showed in her debut, Mandel has crafted a taut novel that defies categorization in all the best ways. Is it a domestic drama? A political thriller? A love story? Can it be all these things and more? It can, and it is. On his honeymoon, Anton Waker leaves his wife in order to remain on the remote island of Ischia off the coast of Italy. Using a spellbinding structure of fractured scenes and complex chronologies, Mandel reveals his mystery to the reader in small, addictive doses. This is a book to be read compulsively, and then read again for its exquisite detail and its beautiful prose. A riveting read."
-Patrick Brown, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena

“In her second novel, Mandel shows that the critical success in her debut book was no fluke. She hits the literary trifecta of compelling prose, utterly convincing characterizations, and a universally appealing story. Having grown up along the periphery of New York's underworld, Anton's final attempt to break free from his family's business becomes far more complicated and disastrous than even an accomplished liar like him could anticipate. Mandel's taut but nuanced prose carries the reader forward and backward through Anton's timeline to a conclusion dappled with menace and her trademark ambiguity. A fine read..."
-Emily Crowe, Odyssey Books, South Hadley, MA

“Emily St. John Mandel's second novel, The Singer's Gun, is a wild read full of corruption, betrayal and the desperate desire to find a place in society. A twisty, subtly-layered, smart mystery, I found myself too intrigued to put it down - and the ending! Made me realize exactly what lengths people will go to for the sake of family, and for the idea of family.
Full of believable, intriguing, understandable characters, I read every word and wanted more! Can't wait for her third!"
-Elizabeth Lewis, Rainy Day Books, Kansas City

“Anton Waker is a complicated guy, or maybe he's not complicated at all. He does, however, finally figure out what he wants in life and risks pretty much everything he has to get it. Defying his family's tradition of making a living dealing in stolen and smuggled contraband, he manages to still get himself in trouble. The Singer's Gun is inhabited by characters we think we know from international thrillers and other fiction, but rarely do we see this side of their psyches. I thoroughly enjoyed this quietly suspenseful tale."
-Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books

“Great voice! Loved it!"
-Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

“The story's back and forth design weaves readers through this twisted tale. The characters are misguided, yet genuine. For fans of the classic good intentions gone wrong storyline, The Singer's Gun will propel you and won't let you go until the last page."
-Lindsey McGuirk, Village Books, Bellingham, WA

“The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel is wrapped in mystery but not your classic whodunit. It's got a couple great love stories in it--but it isn't a romance. It's an intricate story told in various locales but boils down to this simple statement: Wonderful characters inhabit these places between the beginning and the end. I found myself missing several of them for a variety of reasons. It's fast-paced yet smart and even tender. I can't wait for more from this young writer."
-Hans Weyandt, Micawber's Books, St. Paul, MN

“Emily St. John Mandel has a way with characters -- after reading one of her books, they are so real that you'd swear you saw them on the street the other day, or passed them in line at the coffee shop. THE SINGER'S GUN has masterful pacing and a shocker of a plot, but it's the engaging, conflicted, sweat-blood-and-tears characters that steal the show. Not so much a follow-up to the wonderful LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL as it is yet another marker of Mandel's talent in what is (hopefully) sure to be a lengthy career."
-Jenn Northington, Breathe Books, Baltimore

“Mandel's characters are very real, and like her last book she doesn't shy away from the grey areas of life. In fact, this book is all about the grey areas: building a legitimate life on the back of a criminal enterprise, creating financial independence even if it kills a member of your own family, betraying someone in the same moments you are falling in love with them...this is the messy, catastrophic way that real life plays out, (it's really all grey area isn't it?) Morality in the post 9/11 world has become this shining beacon for so many people... it's as if most people believe that everything was confusing before but now there's a clear right and wrong. But Anton and Aria play out arguments that illustrate that nothing has really changed, one person's sin is another person's salvation. And even salvation can go horribly awry."
-Chris Rickert, General Manager, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, South Side Works, Pittsburgh

“Emily Mandel has done it again -- she's given her readers intriguing characters and a story that develops as much by revealing secrets from the past as by events unfolding in the present. Her narrative voice is so compelling and clear for a young writer -- she is definitely one to watch!"
-Emily Pullen, Skylight Books, Los Angeles

“Mandel's new novel, like LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, is practically bashful about how clever and well-constructed it is. So let me tell you. It has a subtle grace, marvelous characters, and places that are just as alive as the people. And like MONTREAL, there are many scenes and images from it that are still with me. I think I will never pass an glass-windowed office building without thinking about this book."
-Stephanie Anderson, WORD, Brooklyn, NY

“[A] very talented young writer. Highly recommended."
-Alice Meloy, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston

“I finished it last night, and holy cow, Emily is amazing! I loved the book. In fact, as much as I loved LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, I thought this was even better. I am totally amazed at her writing style, her ability to write emotions and get the reader to feel what the characters are feeling, the way she describes people and settings- without really having to go into a lot of description. It's like a film running in my head WITH a musical accompaniment. Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!"
-Drew Goodman, The Bookmark at the U, Salt Lake City, UT

“With its semi-sociopathic but disturbingly likeable characters, The Singer's Gun pays homage to Highsmith's Ripley novels. Set in the post 9/11 world of Big Brother, human trafficking, its dry, ironic tone and terrific plot is the perfect martini. It's great fun!"
-Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO