A bomb, a spy. A vanished friend. Multiple parallel worlds.
'Exchange Place is gloriously uncategorisable. Robbe-Grillet would have welcomed it, as would Queneau and Perec, but Hammett and Chandler too would have tipped the brims of their trilbys in salute. A wonderful intellectual romp.' John Banville
He took out his watch and looked at it. He rested for one minute as timed on his watch. He opened the briefcase and took out a passport and a pair of spectacles. He put the spectacles on and looked at the passport, and realised he was the man in the picture. A gunshot rang out.
Part thriller, part spy novel, Exchange Place is set between Belfast and Paris and tracks the individual movements of two men, John Kilfeather and John Kilpatrick, who are trying to solve a mystery concerning a lost friend, a missing notebook and a gun. But this is no ordinary mystery and the usual rules don’t apply. Appearances are deceptive; identities dissolve, become slippery; and it’s easy to lose track of who you are in the winding streets and passageways of the city. Ciaran Carson’s new novel is poetic, profound and gripping. It deals with identity and translation, with disappearing and reinventing yourself, with the effects of being continually observed – this is a mystery story that only Carson could have written.
Blackstaff Press UK & NI
Del Vecchio Editore Italy
Material: finished copies (192pp).
More than twenty years after the end of their love affair, Gabriel receives an unexpected and cryptic postcard from his old flame. It is the first of thirteen cards from her, each one provoking a series of reveries about their relationship and prompting Gabriel to write a letter to his ex-lover in which he dwells in sensuous detail on perfumes, clothes, conversations as he tries to recapture the spirit of their romance in 1980s Belfast. The Pen Friend is, however, much more than a love story. As Gabriel teases out the significance of the cards, the layers of meaning in the images and messages, his reveries develop into richly textured meditations on writing, memory, spiritualism and surveillance. The result is an elaborate and intricate web of fact and fiction, a narrative that marries sharp historical insights with imaginative exuberance, a strange and wonderful novel confirming Ciaran Carson as one of Ireland's most exciting writers. The novel itself is a stunning object, with full-colour postcards throughout.
‘Triumphant. Twisted and playful. The story is relatively easy to follow, which is not to say that it is not also a fiendishly intricate puzzle machine. This novel is an original creation. Technically complex but oddly simple, arcanely informative, humorously puzzling, sensible, sensational, compassionate, it deserves to win whatever prizes are going. For the Man Booker jury, here’s a book and a man.’ Brian Lynch, Irish Independent
‘If Seamus Heaney is the voice of rural Ulster, Ciaran Carson is the laureate of the urban North.’ Terry Eagleton, New Statesman
‘A novel not solely about the Troubles but also about the uneasy peace that has emerged since the Good Friday agreement and remains overshadowed by history. Reaches a climax of ingenuity and considerable power’ TLS
Blackstaff Press UK & NI
Material: finished copies (244pp).