Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run. Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle, but the façade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee holds the key to it all.
Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city—empty aquariums, deserted motels, patrolled museums, and even the homes of vacationing families, but the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude. Desperate and out of options, Lee steps from the shadows to face who is after her—and why.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Theft, Attempted sexual assault, Teen pregnancy
Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
A young woman must outthink and outplay a group of men trying to uncover the deepest secrets of the universe (with the help of clues left by Marcel Duchamp) in Rose’s debut novel. Lee has always felt invisible, taking advantage of this by shoplifting and dealing drugs to her high school classmates. When her friend Edie turns her in, Lee is sent to juvenile detention and then the psych ward, from which she manages to escape. Homeless, friendless, and directionless, Lee stumbles upon a group of other lost teens who live in the Crystal Castle under the control of a mysterious figure known as the Station Master. When she steals a strange object that turns out to be a work of art by Marcel Duchamp, Lee has no idea that she has attracted the obsessive interest of a shadowy and dangerous society that effectively worships Duchamp. They believe he left clues in his art that reveal the key to immortality, and they are willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to decipher them. Together with her friend Tomi, an art fanatic who likes to creep around abandoned buildings, Lee fights to stay one step ahead of the Société Anonyme, which seems to have spies everywhere and which has determined that Lee herself is central to their dastardly plans. The novel is complex on many intellectual levels, drawing heavily on theories of art history and physics, and the mystery is deep and satisfying in both its unpredictability and its culmination. The sheer scope is impressive, as are Rose’s evocative descriptions of underground and abandoned places, reminiscent of David Lynch’s films. Lee, despite being a strong survivor, doesn’t captivate, however. Her survival depends on her ability to be self-sufficient and to separate herself from people, which also estranges her from the reader. Admirably ambitious but lacking in soul.
Publishers Weekly (June 26, 2017)
The 17-year-old heroine of Rose’s debut novel, a richly detailed intellectual thriller set in contemporary Philadelphia, has already been through an adventurous childhood and adolescence when she ends up in juvie, set up by a former friend for a crime she hasn’t committed. Not that Lee Cuddy hasn’t earned her stay there: a natural-born shoplifter, she has also sold enough drugs to accumulate thousands of dollars in cash. Escaped from prison, she winds up in a creepy, cultish home for runaways and then goes on the lam with Tomi, a gentle Czech boy who has a talent for data retrieval, a taste for urban exploration, and a passion for the work of French artist Marcel Duchamp (whose “readymades” cemented the idea that ordinary objects could be considered art if their assembler defined them as such). After Lee steals a satchel from the office of the cult leader, she finds herself pursued by the mysterious Societe Anonyme, which is involved in the production of designer drugs. While Rose may put in one too many obscure references to alchemy and unified field theory, Lee is an excellent character, and the many shadowy settings she travels through make for a fascinating vision of an alternate, underground Philadelphia.
About the Author
Augustus Rose grew up in and around San Francisco, California. His debut novel, The Readymade Thief (Viking 2017), is about a young woman at the center of a mystery involving the art Marcel Duchamp, the dark net, urban exploration, and the shotgun marriage of alchemy and string theory. He teaches fiction writing at University of Chicago.
His website is augustusrose.me
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