Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

Penguin. Aug. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9780525541332. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780525541356. f.
Eccentric retired school teacher Janina Duszejko casts horoscopes, defends animal rights, supplements her pension by taking care of neighbors’ houses in winter, and emulates William Blake, from whose Marriage of Heaven and Hell the novel’s title is derived and whose epigraphs head each chapter. The rural, relatively isolated town in Silesia, Poland, where she lives, is stunned by a series of violent deaths of residents with offbeat monikers (Bigfoot, Oddball), as the townsfolk are led to believe the deaths are caused by wildlife seeking revenge. Janina, à la Miss Marple, enmeshes herself in the hunt for the culprit. Unlike Tokarczuk’s earlier Flights, with its philosophical musings and digressions, this work follows a fairly traditional murder-mystery narrative, though it’s not entirely lacking social commentary.
VERDICT More than an offbeat and dark detective work, this latest from Man Booker Prize–winning and National Book Award finalist Tokarczuk combines ecological and social issues with disturbing images and great characterizations. Fans of this genre will likely be caught off guard when the surprise identity of the murderer is ultimately exposed, as the author lays down very few clues. [See Prepub Alert, 2/11/19.]
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