Nathan Roche, ‘Behind the Curtain of Death’
Thursday November 3, 2016·
Proudly donning the title of “The Only Person That's Ever Read Behind The Curtain of Death by Nathan Roche” I am writing this review without any fear of criticism. Unless of course it is in your nature to do so, and in which case I encourage you to go online (or to Polyester Records when they stock it), buy yourself a copy, and tell me I'm wrong.
If you've ever begun to read a book by Nathan Roche you can skip this preamble. Yes, as always it is a very punishing read, but once you've grappled with whether you have dyslexia (or he does) you can get into the flow of the novel, where the true beauty of only a genius and his story can be exposed. Behind The Curtain of Death is also completely ruined by the quote on the back, which reads something like “…finally a book where everyone dies”.
We meet a failed magician early in the piece who is about to throw the towel in when greeted by Death! Death strikes a deal that Ladislav cannot refuse, a piece of his cloak that will make people DISAPPEAR!! All of a sudden the whole of Prague is wanting to see Ladislav's magic show.
With the sudden rise to fame and fortune, this story all seems to go down in a relatively short amount of time. Ladislav develops a healthy appetite for absinthe. And quickly becomes rather delusional, having conversations with himself (or Death?).
Meanwhile in another part of town, we meet a bizzaro Ladislav named Pavel Sitek (although Nathan never draws that parallel). A failed rookie officer handing in his gun and badge, he's been given two weeks unpaid leave for lack of success on the job. Sitek decides, with one last attempt to save his career, to do some private investigating and get to the bottom of Ladislav's famous disappearing act, where are all these people going?
With some hiccups of his own along the way he manages to keep up with Ladislav's tour, when he gets to his home town. The show that night sees the disappearance of his detested uncle. As an officer of the law, Sitek wants to get to the bottom of this, unfortunately no one in the community is too perturbed by the uncle’s disappearance. Sitek continues to follow the tour and slowly learns that the people of Prague aren't too bothered with the disappearance of ANY of these people.
Political conspiracy makes its way into the story when we find out the absinthe Ladislav has been drinking is actually made of BIN JUICE distilled by none other than the KSCM (Czech Communist Party) designed to make you hallucinate, become paranoid and delusional. A grand scheme we discover designed to control the population and immigration into Prague, all dressed up as the concept of death.
In the final acts of the book we meet each of the characters Ladislav has made vanish in a kind of purgatory bar. It felt like I was in an actual bar at this point, a place where I felt safe and could take a drink without anyone dying for a minute.
Back in Prague, Ladislav has reached the peak of his madness, the fame, the fortune, the power, the absinthe, it's all got to his head. He enters a brothel with Death where he eventually not only cloaks the women working there but also suffocates them, which is an important distinction in the story as once he puts down the bottle and realises the absinthe was actually making him mad the people he made disappear along the way start reappearing in all parts of Europe.
Not the ones he's killed.
The book comes to a startling end where Sitek and Ladislav's paths finally meet, as Ladislav himself turns into the curtain of death.
This is a terribly brash review of a very brilliant novel.
I'm going to make a movie out of it.