–> Many and Many A Year Ago by Selcuk Altun
Altun’s second novel to be made available in the U.S. has a premise almost as intriguing as his first, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, but the execution is less successful. Kemal Kuray’s meteoric ascent to the top of the Turkish Air Force comes to an abrupt end after the engine of the plane he’s piloting fails. Barely escaping serious injury, he’s assigned to coordinate a secret translation project, during which he befriends Suat Altan, a technology consultant working on the project to complete his military service. Later, Kemal learns from Suat’s identical twin, Fuat, that Suat, who’s vanished, has left behind a cryptic note for Kemal and arranged for monthly payments to him of $5,000 a month after his retirement. Kemal spends the rest of the book seeking the purpose, as well as the true meaning, of Suat’s message. If Poe’s fans are meant to be enticed by the title, taken from Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” they will find little to chew on.
–> The Last Supper by Pawel Huelle
Twelve men make their way to a theater to pose for a photo to be used as the basis for a new painting of The Last Supper. This pastiche is set in the near future in Gdansk, Poland, paralyzed by terrorist attacks during the 19th-century travels of a painter and in much earlier times in real and imaginary Middle Eastern locales. A few problems prevent this book from being a near masterpiece: the irony is laid on too thick, and pages 99–100 contain a terrible spoiler. It’s like revealing “whodunit” right in the middle of a mystery, so readers should be strongly advised to skip those pages, which take a little power out of an otherwise spectacular final chapter. VERDICT Huelle addresses some of the same issues found in Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ or Christopher Moore’s Lamb but in a very different way, yet fans of those authors might enjoy this book. The ultimate ironic act would be to use The Last Supper as a Christmas present.