After reading Andre Alexis' Fifteen Dogs, I was excited to get my hands on an advanced reading copy of Alexis' next book, The Hidden Keys (Coach House Books, September 2016). While I doubt it possible for him to beat the ingenuity of Fifteen Dogs, The Hidden Keys reinforces his mastery at writing (fans of Andre Alexis will also be delighted to find a brief cameo appearance of a few favorite characters from Fifteen Dogs.)
If it is possible for a thief to be honorable, then protagonist Tancred Palmieri exemplifies that — stealing more for the challenge than the monetary rewards. When Tancred meets an aged heroin addict Willow Azarian, Tancred finds himself facing his most complex trial yet: to steal from the Azarian family to solve a treasure hunt carefully laid out the by the deceased billionaire father.
While trying to solve the puzzle, Tancred is met with much opposition. Willow passes away, but not before Tancred promises he will eventually return the stolen goods to her siblings, giving them each their share of the treasure, and keeping a share for himself. Tancred is determined to fulfill her requests, but finds himself hindered by two young ruffians, Colby and "Freud," who want to keep the treasure for themselves. Not only that, but Willow's siblings attempt to thwart would-be treasure hunters, including Tancred. Tancred also risks destroying the most important relationship in his life — his friendship with Detective Daniel Mandelshtam, who is on the case to solve the robberies of Azarian's memorabilia, and determined to put duty before personal attachments.
Fortunately Tancred does have the help of a couple interesting characters. His friend Ollie is a nihilist who is happy to help for no reward. The aging artist Alexander fun Wurfel helps Tancred discover the objects, all the while being more interested in solving the puzzle for the sake of it rather than for the reward.
Overall, this is a fun and delightful romp of a book, and I challenge you to join Tancred in his attempts to solve the puzzle.