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Darkly funny, literate and well-paced, A Carnivore's Inquiry was a pleasant surprise -- much better than I was expecting it to be. The reader was absolutely pitch perfect for narrator Catherine and did an excellent job not only differentiating the other characters, but communicating the essence of each. (In fact, this is one of the best read audiobooks I've ever listened to.)
The only negative is that there weren't many surprises, but this was due primarily to the fact that the book description was more revealing than necessary. In other words, you know where it's going, but in this case, the getting there was worth it!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
The publisher's book description and many professional reviews all present this as a novel of ideas. Don't be deceived! It's primarily a suspense novel with the thrilling bits you normally expect in a suspense novel ripped out and replaced by the narrator's musings on cannibalism in Western art, folklore, and history. And, as unlikely as it sounds, this is its main strength.
While these inner stories of desperate adventurers and hungry gods are themselves quite enjoyable, it's the frame story, Katherine's ramblings around the US and (too briefly) in Mexico, that fall flat. The themes that are purported by some reviewers to tie these reflections together are all but absent in the main storyline, where the majority of events center around the narrator meeting a random man, drinking far too much liquor, then blacking out.
All of the characters, save perhaps Katherine, Boris, and Anne, seem motiveless and underdeveloped. Of course, since the reader only sees these characters through the lens of the disturbed, solipsistic narrator, one could argue that this is a purposeful technique used by the author to illustrate Katherine's schizoid lack of affect. Intentional or not, these half-formed secondary characters make for drab reading.
Murray is obviously skilled, and some parts of her story are quite compelling and a bit creepy. However, this book is not a true thriller, since it completely lacks a building tension released by action. Neither is it a novel of ideas, since the only idea that receives rigorous treatment is that some people crave the juicy meat of the long pig. Instead, to its detriment, this book is stuck somewhere in between. In the hands of a less skillful writer this story would have turned out dreadfully. As it is, "A Carnivore's Inquiry" is an entertaining but forgetful read.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful