By Miguel Camargo
Denis Johnson’s latest novel, “The Laughing Monsters,” although not his best work, compliments his oeuvre.
Fans of political thrillers or Johnson’s fans will enjoy this novel.
However, people who haven’t read anything by Johnson may find it a tedious read.
The narrative follows Roland Nair, a man who describes himself as Danish with an American passport as he attempts to dive into the anarchy of Africa.
Nair works for NATO Intelligence Interoperability Architecture and is currently in Sierra Leone to meet up with a friend, Michael Adriko, a man of questionable descent who wants to introduce Nair to his new fiancée Davidia St. Claire, a Doctoral candidate from Colorado.
The two, Nair and Adriko, have a past. They were previously involved in the diamond trade in Sierra Leone and made tons of money during a time when Sierra Leone was in dire straits.
When Nair does finally meet Adriko, it is clear that not only Adriko is withholding information for what his true intentions are, but St. Claire is withholding information on her true identity.
The novel is written in three parts, and in part one after Nair and Adriko have been introduced into the story, the two have a conversation about St. Claire.
Adriko convinces Nair to join him for his wedding to St. Claire in Uganda while still trying to propose a scam that would net the two a lot of money.
All the time everybody is kept in the lurch of what truly is going on.
The best passage that describes the novel is a piece of dialogue by Nair: “Of course. If it amuses you, fine, sure, but I mean-I can tell you now, you’ll get an Inconclusive. I mean to say—I’ve been telling so many lies and listening to so many lies until I don’t know what’s true and what’s false. And we’re in Africa, you realize’—shut up shut up, I told myself, shut up—‘and you realize it’s all myths and legends here, and lies, and rumors. You realize that.”
All the characters in the novel blur the lines between truth and fiction.
Johnson doesn’t take a backseat to anyone in the contemporary literary community and he doesn’t have to.
His accolades and recognitions speak for themselves: Guggenheim Fellowship, National Book Award Winner for “Tree of Smoke” and twice a Pulitzer Prize Award Finalist.
“The Laughing Monsters” is largely a political thriller full of suspense and espionage.
Nobody is clear on what their intentions are.
“The Laughing Monsters” is well written with straightforward prose, and Johnson is indeed a master at his craft.
Readers who like political espionage will find this book a good read.