The Readymade Thief

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The Readymade Thief
384 pages; Viking

Anyone who became addicted to the roiling emotions, betrayals and violent showdowns of Breaking Bad will be seduced by Augustus Rose's debut, The Readymade Thief. In this enigmatic novel set in a shadowy Philadelphia underworld, art is a drug that hooks the unwary, though the harder stuff comes into play, too. How are they related? Rose's heroine, a resourceful teenager named Lee, must find out before she's drawn into a cabal of ruthless aesthetes—nine men obsessed by Marcel Duchamp. This band of highly educated goons believes that his The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, contains secrets to wealth and power only Lee can unlock—secrets they believe will "alter the very fabric of space-time." 

As the novel progresses, we learn that Lee—neglected by her mother, left by her father and on the run—is living in a junkyard. Longing to feel "singular, chosen," she shows up at a trendy rave in an abandoned missile silo, organized by the mysterious Société Anonyme. When a hostess in a flapper dress welcomes her, Lee reacts to her warmth with gratitude, "like a dog rolling belly-up in hopes of a rub." Then she spots the Duchamp brigade and realizes she's walked into a trap: She'd been engaged in "a game with an opponent who was moves ahead of her." Fiendishly intricate and relentlessly suspenseful, The Readymade Thief stretches the reader's intellect and empathy, accompanying Lee not only into the dark labyrinths of Philly's art world demimonde and the fervid imagination of a visionary, but also into the deep, protected channels of a young woman's heart.

— Liesl Schillinger