three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0
A-NothingLostIn the fictional Great Plains state of South Midland, a black man named Edgar Parlance has just been skinned alive. Accused of the crime are two young white drifters, and their alleged racist motivations soon turn the trial into a major media event. Enter Teresa Kean, a former victims’ rights advocate who agrees to defend one of the accused killers. Her co-counsel is narrator Max Cline, whose status as a gay Jewish man makes him an outsider in South Midland; their adversary is Cline’s former colleague, prosecutor J.J. McClure. Kean may have personal reasons for her involvement, and she’s not alone. In this tale of insider deals and PR acrobatics, everyone has something to hide.
Knopf. 335 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 1400041430

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"… [Dunne] left us, as his last testament, this sure-handed, ambitious, panoramic and pungent novel, the best of his dozen books. …There is real sympathy for the people here who deserve it, and a genuine if hard-bitten love for the country in which they live." Jonathan Yardley

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"… Mr. Dunne soon hits his stride, using his virtuosic skills as a social observer, his ear for street talk and his gut instinct for a story to create his most compelling novel since True Confessions. … It traces with verve and consummate authority what Mr. Dunne calls the ‘coinage of coincidence,’ putting his characters on a collision course with fate …" Michiko Kakutani

Detroit Free Press 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dunne’s books always rely on a distinct rhythm and this one is a little tougher than usual to get in sync with, undoubtedly because the narrator is telling other people’s stories from their perspective. … [D]epending on your mood, [Dunne] is the essence of unsentimental or bordering on cruel." Linnea Lannon

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There’s a chilliness here, and occasionally the technical detail and some of Dunne’s signature techniques—the insertion of scraps of official documents, newspaper and magazine articles, bits of screenplays and transcripts—get in the way of character. But when Dunne hits his stride and the misdeeds are piling up, this book is gripping and cuts deep." David Freeman

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he story has a few too many minor characters. … Overall, Nothing Lost is terrific. It’s a serious novel—one with genuine insights into the punchiest intersections of power—disguised as brilliantly entertaining popular fiction." Adam Woog

Rocky Mountain News 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Dunne sets up characters that seem at first to have substance, but are so highly chiseled into props that they end up paper-thin. As he tosses in more players and meanders further into the convoluted and sordid past of his characters, the purpose of the story becomes less clear and the actors become zombies propelled through the book by Dunne’s cynical sense of satire." Alex Gorelik

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 1 of 5 Stars
"The narrative is brisk. But emotional response consistently eludes." Larry Swindell

Critical Summary

Nothing Lost is Dunne’s last novel—he recently died at 71—and most reviewers found it a fitting end to an illustrious career. Its opening chapters may weigh the reader down a bit with details and character introductions, but when the narrative takes off, it proves well worth the wait. Critics praised Dunne’s ability to combine riveting storytelling with dead-on social commentary. A few found Nothing Lost too caustic for comfort, the sharpness of Dunne’s satire destroying the novel’s emotional impact. For most, however, it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, the work of a keen observer whose insight will be missed.