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Wednesday 3 August 2016

‘DragonFish’ by Vu Tran

Published by No Exit Press,
25 February 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-826-6

A dragonfish is glittering, elusive and valuable... like Suzy, the Vietnamese ex-wife of Oakland police officer Robert Ruen. Now she’s run away from her second husband, a Vegas gangster who’s using Robert to get her back.

This stylish thriller is narrated by Robert, beginning ‘now’, briefly jumping back five months to his first encounter with Mr Son, then returning to the present. His narrative is intercut with letters from a woman to her child – the story of their terrifying journey by boat, and, later, their life in the refugee camp. In Robert’s memories, we learn about Suzy’s strange moods and bizarre behaviour, alternately sheltering in his love and running from it. Gradually, as he becomes submerged in Vietnamese America, he discovers more about the culture Miss Hong (her real name) came from. The characters are well drawn: Robert, mourning his loss while admitting their marriage was a mistake; the elegant, restrained Son Junior and his terrifyingly psychopathic father; Hong herself, through the letters. The prose is elegant, and the storyline of Robert’s duel with Mr Son keeps you reading. Vegas, that glittering city in the middle of the desert, and the culture of American Vietnamese people, are vividly described.

An elegantly-written, elegaic novel about trust and the impossibility of ever truly knowing another person; a world that lingers with you. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Vu Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma. Vu received his MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and his PhD from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he was a Glenn Schaeffer Fellow in Fiction at the Black Mountain Institute. He is the winner of a Whiting Award, and his short stories have appeared in many publications, including the O. Henry Prize Stories and the Best American Mystery Stories.  He is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.  Dragonfish is his first novel. Born in Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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