“Los Alamos” by Joseph Kanon: a clever mixture of reality and fiction
Beyond general crime fiction lies the realm of the truly unique authors, those who add something that makes their novels stand apart. I can vouch for “Los Alamos” as being a novel in that special realm. Joseph Kanon has created a completely unique atmosphere, situated at the site where, in the 1940, the atomic bomb was being invented and prepared for its debut at Hiroshima. This author has the knowledge and skill to create a fictional crime story while also presenting us with facts. Los Alamos, the site. Oppenheimer, the scientist. To name a few. This powerful historical backdrop makes the idea of a crime extra powerful and Kanon makes use of that combination in a clever way. Another positive aspect of “Los Alamos” is that Joseph Kanon is a good writer, which he proves by adding nice details. Here’s an example: “Europe seemed to him now like a vast funhouse, dark and grotesque and claustrophobic.” Now there’s a statement about postwar Europe that I find well put. Or this observation: “The moral question would drift to that limbo where they always went.” I like to read novels of many kinds, from J.M. Coetzee all the way to Ed Mcbain and stuff in between. I feel that Joseph Kanon has put down a fine crimenovel here, with a crime that’s interwoven with the scientific secrets of Los Alamos. He’s also created very nice characters, I felt really at home in this world. These are real people, sweating in the real desert sun. One personal note: I’m not entirely sure if round and about 500 pages is really necessary for this type of story. I like crimenovels best when they’re short; but that’s me. See what you think.