NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by Time Out, Bustle, The Atlantic, Electric Literature, Kobo, Kirkus and more...
"Riveting... thrillerlike...drolly surreal...Ultimately, The Beautiful Bureaucrat succeeds because it isn't afraid to ask the deepest questions." The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
"A joyride..." -Karen Russell
NAMED A MUST READ OF THE SUMMER by the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Bustle, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, HelloGiggles and more...
A young wife's new job pits her against the unfeeling machinations of the universe in a first novel Ursula K. Le Guin hails as "funny, sad, scary, beautiful. I love it."
In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.
As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Irish Times (Crime Fiction) and the Irish Independent (Thrillers)
One of CrimeReads' Most Anticipated Books of the Year
On a Friday evening in 1953, Madison Avenue ad executive Ned Sweeney enjoys a cocktail in the apartment of a strange and charismatic man he met hours earlier. Ned doesn't know it, but he has just become a participant in Project MK-Ultra, a covert, CIA-run study of mind-control techniques. The experience transforms Ned, pulling him away from his wife and young son and into the inner circles of the richest and most powerful people of his day. In a matter of months, he is dead.
It is a tragedy Ned's family struggles to understand, then tries to forget . . . but some skeletons refuse to stay buried. More than sixty years later, Ned's grandson Ray is introduced to a retired government official who claims to know the details of Ned's life and death. Ray is prepared to dismiss the encounter, until he discovers that the now-elderly man once worked for the CIA. Ray digs deeper, and begins to question everything as he uncovers rumors of a mysterious "smart drug"—a fabled black-market cognitive enhancer called MDT-48.
Brabant, 1473. A clandestine brotherhood hides a secret that could bring down the Catholic Church. Their chosen hiding place - the art of Hieronymus Bosch.
A TERRIBLE CONSPIRACY.
London, 2014. An excommunicated priest approaches both the Church and the art world, claiming to possess an artefact that will destroy their reputations.
A TICKING CLOCK.
This man, Nicholas Laverne, is poised to end over 500 years of silence and injustice. Yet, unknown to Nicholas, he has just summoned a killer intent on silencing him.
The flight to London was supposed to be a short cut home, but for seven of the delegates gathered at an art convention it becomes the most terrifying journey they will ever make. An incident on the flight reveals the existence of a priceless artefact - and blows open a conspiracy that has been kept hidden for centuries. Every passenger on the plane is now caught up in a race to find the prize for themselves - but within 24 hours of the flight, three people have been silenced by someone who knows the devastating consequences should the full story ever come to light. The race is on. The body count is rising. No one can be trusted.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
Some Possible Solutions offers an idiosyncratic series of "What ifs": What if your perfect hermaphrodite match existed on another planet? What if you could suddenly see through everybody's skin to their organs? What if you knew the exact date of your death? What if your city was filled with doppelgangers of you?
Forced to navigate these bizarre scenarios, Phillips' characters search for solutions to the problem of how to survive in an irrational, infinitely strange world. In dystopias that are exaggerated versions of the world in which we live, these characters strive for intimacy and struggle to resolve their fraught relationships with each other, with themselves, and with their place in the natural world. We meet a wealthy woman who purchases a high-tech sex toy in the shape of a man, a rowdy, moody crew of college students who resolve the energy crisis, and orphaned twin sisters who work as futuristic strippers--and with Phillips' characteristic smarts and imagination, we see that no one is quite who they appear.
By turns surreal, witty, and perplexing, these marvelous stories are ultimately a reflection of our own reality and of the big questions that we all face. Who are we? Where do we fit? Phillips is a true original and a treasure.