James A. Levine
Spiegel & Grau, 2014 (2014)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ames A. Levine is known for
The Blue Notebook
. Now he brings us
, which oddly reminded me Voltaire's
. But though Candide was innocent of evil in the world, it's good that is unknown to young Bingo and that is what he eventually discovers in himself and (a few) others in
ingo Mwolo lives in Kibera, Nairobi, where he is '
the greatest runner
'. His only friend is Slo-George, who only has '
half a brain
' and Bingo works as a runner for Wolf who runs half of Nairobi's drug business. Bingo delivers '
blocks of white
' to Wolf and runs drugs to whiteheads, taking the payment back to Wolf. He's very good at what he does, and he does not let the past weigh him down.
hen Wolf gives him a special assignment. For once he does not follow orders exactly and so is witness to murder. He hides a briefcase heavy with money, and also hides the fact that he arrived early. For his own safety, Wolf sends Bingo to corrupt Father Matthew at St. Michael's Orphanage. When wealthy Mrs. Steele arrives from America seeking to adopt a child, she picks Bingo - but can he trust her?
rs. Steele is an art dealer and Bingo has a special relationship with a very talented artist. He organizes a contract with Hunsa. When Mrs. Steele's lawyer pressures Bingo to sign over the contract, he loses faith in her, believing her to be hustling him, the expert hustler. There are many twists and turns of plot - and interventions by hotel maid Charity - before this is all resolved.
harity advises Bingo to '
climb out of your skin and be who you are
', which is what he eventually does, after which the villains of the piece get exactly what they deserve and Bingo's long run ends.
is a remarkable novel, highly recommended.
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