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The Crack Magazine


A Ladder to the Sky

John Boyne, Doubleday

When renowned gentleman of letters Erich Ackermann takes a fancy to Maurice Swift, a waiter working in a hotel in Berlin, he tries every way he can to ingratiate himself with the attractive young man, to the extent of offering him a job, of sorts, accompanying him to various literary events all over the world. It turns out to be an unequal relationship however, but it’s not, as you might imagine, Ackermann on the take here, but Swift, who has designs on a literary career of his own. This wonderful yarn fairly thrums with amorality, Swift straying beyond the anti-hero status bestowed on the likes of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley or Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman. He’s a real bastard’s bastard. And readers can cast the odd plot contrivance to the four winds as the author gives us some super set pieces, including a visit to Gore Vidal’s villa on the Amalfi Coast, and a truly unsettling section detailing Swift’s marriage. Naughty, but very nice.