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Her Own Devices, a novel or two

A magical and metafictional crime novel of intersecting obsessions

Available September 1, 2024 from Guernica World Editions

The Swiss expat from Turkey Shoot with a tragic past and a precarious present has put on a few years, not that you’d know that to look at her. She’s called her salvaged two-room flat in Piraeus, Greece home for seven years now, sharing it for the past few with her precocious son Ramadi and the footloose spirit of his late father, not that she knows that.

As an anarchist activist, Anna got used to being on the wrong side of the law but now inserts herself on both sides of it. After witnessing a street kidnapping that her quick thinking foils, the culprit is caught but is let off on a minor charge that Anna believes the investigating police inspector finagled for a kickback. Outraged, she becomes obsessed with pursuing the trafficker and his equally loathsome partner, starting by watching their house with a hidden camera a friend rigs up, and then courts allies who might or might not be much help.

Though Anna doesn’t know it, foremost among those allies is that late father, Mahmoud Al Ramadi, who died at 22 in Turkey under mysterious circumstances just after Ramadi was conceived. To this day, Anna blames herself for his passing with unslakable remorse.

Consigned to solitary confinement in a featureless limbo somewhere short of Paradise, Mahmoud learns to project his sight to places he knew in life. He spies on Anna and their son as a silent witness, helpless to connect or intervene, wanting the best for them, narrating his thoughts and impressions in plaintive soliloquies that only you can overhear.

This young man had a tough life. Door-to-door fighting in Ramadi forced his parents to flee to Mosul with him and his younger brother, Akhmed. After American forces withdrew, when Mahmoud was in college Daesh (Isis) captured the city. Both his parents were executed and Mahmoud fled to Kurdistan, not knowing his brother’s fate. Looking for clues, his spirit-vision visits his Iraqi relatives, hoping to find Akhmed alive and somehow guide him to Katrina.

Anna is smart and committed but somewhat impulsive in her choice of projects, a sort of mental myopia that her wire-frame glasses can’t correct. But no matter how chimeric her cause, she gives it her all, leaping into the fray without a parachute. Gizzard-Brain, Anna’s name for her abrasive inner critic, regularly chides her for heedlessness, though to little avail. And despite her bullish naivety and qualms, Anna persists, gathering allies in her chimeric quest. Some come through for her, and in the end, she comes to understand that you never know who your friends are until you need them, and even then you still might not know, but that’s okay.

Her Own Devices weaves a tense but tender story that’s rooted yet fanciful, layered and languid, arcing to a fateful conclusion. After shape-shifting for three years, Her Own Devices is soon to be published Guernica World Editions.

Paper and eBook editions of Her Own Devices are now available for pre-order online, including at our bookstore. Check out some excerpts, and leave a comment, if you’re so moved.

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