Dark Prayer by Natasha Mostert

So few books deserve the title “literary mystery.” Often, that phrase is given to books where ponderous writing and a quasi-mystical theme are draped over a poorly constructed plot, as if the fact that the book itself is so unenjoyable is some testament to how smart the reader must be to not only finish but like, or at least pretend to like, the damn thing. Pretentious intelligentsia are the bane of my reading existence, I tell you.

Fortunately, Dark Prayer is one of those elegant, if not overly complicated novels that fully deserves its accolades as a literary mystery. Natasha Mostert knows what she’s taking about when she discusses memory and mysticism, and the underlying murder plot is briskly and, more importantly, credibly constructed. She wasn’t afraid to mine the emotional depravity that so many other of her less accomplished cohorts think they can substitute mere sexual peccadilloes for. I thought her writing really shone, though, when she was describing the thrills of parkour. The passages of physical grace and athleticism were a terrific counterpoint to the murkiness of the mind and emotions.

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