Agnes Among the Gargoyles

 by Patrick Flynn


Agnes Among the Gargoyles by Patrick Flynn book cover
Price: £5.99
RRP: £6.68

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Agnes Among The Gargoyles is a novel steeped in the lore of New York City. The engine of the novel is the love of the city felt by the book's protagonist, Agnes Travertine, an architectural preservationist. Agnes is the sort of person who spies a dignified sliver of the Woolworth Building behind some formless modern building and thinks of "a line of lace slip showing at the bottom of a gaudy dress." Agnes is painted on a broad social canvas and tackles big themes--the lure of the past and the ultimate failure of nostalgia, the resonance of place, the dangerous mysteries of love and sex.

Set in the freewheeling 1980s, Agnes Among The Gargoyles commences at the dedication of an office tower constructed atop Grand Central Station. The building, the work of billionaire real estate baron Ronald Wegeman, sticks out of the venerable Beaux-Arts railroad terminal "like a thirty-story middle finger." When a plan to assassinate Wegeman goes awry, Agnes Travertine finds herself hailed as a hero, and drawn into the Great Man's circle.

Meanwhile, Agnes' friend Barbara Foucault becomes the first victim of the Minotaur of the Labyrinth, New York City's latest serial killer. Stewardesses, nightclub singers, nurses, rabbi's wives-no one is safe from his blood lust. Agnes wonders: is it disrespectful to Barbara's memory to fall in love with the detective assigned to the case?

Wegeman opens The Palace of Versailles, his showplace casino in Coney Island, but the applause is not as tumultuous as he expects. His daughter Sarah, freshly expelled from prep school for having a social conscience, yearns to help society. She attaches herself to Agnes, and films a documentary about Wayne Torrence, a homeless gay man with AIDS in search of Eastern enlightenment, all the while battling off the advances of Ivan Kroger, a dweeb into hobbits and monsters who's been following her around for months. Ivan seems a hopeless loser until he wins Sarah's admiration through an act of heroism.

On the fringes of the action, like a pair of extras from some forgotten film noir , Bezel and the Frenchman, two New York grifters, join forces with a child of privilege called Spock and a disgruntled employee of the Metropolitan Transit Authority in order to plot their last chance at the big score.

Times Square redevelops, Penn Station is rebuilt, Syker's department store almost reopens. While being pursued romantically by a lesbian teacher of the blind, Agnes uncovers some disturbing truths about her mother and dead father. The Minotaur is finally unmasked, thanks primarily to Agnes and her detective (in that order.) Tollivetti of the Graphic is there, as always, to cover it all. And Agnes at last finds her life entwined, briefly but significantly, with those of Bezel and the Frenchman.

 

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