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A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux

A Dead Hand

by Paul Theroux

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2021458,111 (2.98)17



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With a cover like this, who could resist? Seriously though, it was the Calcutta setting and my wanting to give Paul Theroux another shot after his unlikable My Other Life that made me pick up this book.The story is based on a murder mystery- a dead child turns up in a hotel room, and the hero, an 'aimless travel writer' named Jerry Delfont, is hired by an American philanthropist, Mrs. Merrill Unger, to see if he can use his contacts to discreetly investigate. The corpse is dumped by someone in the hotel room of Mrs. Unger's son's best friend, and the friend Rajat runs away from the scene. So, understandably, she wants to help him out.

This lady, Mrs. Unger, quickly becomes the whole mainstay of the story though. Jerry predictably becomes infatuated by her beauty, her goodness, and her rather advanced…er… Tantric massage skills. Behaving like a daft teenager, Jerry gets pulled further and further into her web while trying in his small way to get to the bottom of the corpse mystery, etc., in order to win her favor. But she seems to have forgotten all about the case anyway, and is happy to spirit him off to her spa and administer her magic on him.

The full review is at http://devikamenon.blogspot.com/2014/03/reading-dead-hand.html ( )
  dmenon90 | Jun 6, 2016 |
When I 'met' this book in the book shop, I was attracted by the author's name (and in an equal amount by the title and the cover picture, I must admit).

And when I stick to being honest, I must also admit, that the book wasn't as good as I expected. (On what grounds I expected it to be good, I have no idea, but sometimes that happens, you just expect a book to be good.)
The environment, the city was well described. I could almost smell the seasoning, feel the dust and got warm by the heat. But that is about it.
The story this book tells was not so impressive, that I felt the need to read on, that I couldn't put the book down.
That I did finish it, was more out of curiosity: I needed to know who that boy was, who murdered him and why.

This book will absolutely not linger on for a long time.

I hope the travel books I have by this author are much better.... ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Apr 1, 2015 |
This dead hand was ham-fisted: a slow-moving, lethargic, repetitious mystery with no sympathetic characters (apart from the Indian chambermaids) and a denouement which felt like a deus ex machina. Ughhhhh. ( )
  thiscatsabroad | Aug 13, 2013 |
I enjoyed the setting and descriptions of Calcutta; I liked the mystery within the story; I did not enjoy the painful paragraphs dealing with the protagonist's feelings, reactions, and longings for Mrs. Unger. I found it very repetitious and felt it would have made a great suspenseful mystery if Mr. Theroux had developed that theme more and spent less time describing the writer's almost "adolescent" obsession with the saintly philanthropist. Hard to believe all that. I felt other characters could have been developed more fully to add to the plot and I kept reading because I wanted it to meet my expectations. It did not. ( )
1 vote readyreader | Apr 2, 2013 |
Had a real problem with the main female character and the hero's infatuation. Just didn't ring true. ( )
1 vote AnnB2013 | Mar 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
He investigates his only evidence, the victim’s “dead hand,” which has no fingerprints. This enigma leads him to a sordid underworld in which child labor is exploited and casual cruelty is visited upon the most vulnerable in Indian society. A novel of extremes—rationality and obsession, humanitarianism and selfishness, ecstasy and heartlessness.
added by John_Vaughan | editKirkus (Jul 21, 2011)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547260245, Hardcover)

Jerry Delfont leads an aimless life in Calcutta, struggling in vain against his writer's block, or 'dead hand,' and flitting around the edges of a half-hearted romance. Then he receives a mysterious letter asking for his help. The story it tells is disturbing: A dead boy found on the floor of a cheap hotel, a seemingly innocent man in flight and fearing for reputation as well as his life.

Before long, Delfont finds himself lured into the company of the letter's author, the wealthy and charming Merrill Unger, and is intrigued enough to pursue both the mystery and the woman. A devotee of the goddess Kali, Unger introduces Delfont to a strange underworld where tantric sex and religious fervor lead to obsession, philanthropy and exploitation walk hand in hand, and, unless he can act in time, violence against the most vulnerable in society goes unnoticed and unpunished.

An atmospheric and masterful thriller from "the most gifted, the most prodigal writer of his generation" (Jonathan Raban).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:43 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When Jerry Delfont, a travel writer with writer's block, receives a letter from an American philanthropist, Mrs Merrill Unger, with news of a scandal involving an Indian friend of her son's, he is sufficiently intrigued to pursue the story. Who is the dead boy found on the floor of a cheap hotel room, how and why did he die?… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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