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The Tax Inspector

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About the Author

Peter Carey was born in Australia and now lives in New York. His internationally acclaimed novel, Oscar and Lucinda, won the Booker Prize in 1988.

-- From the Hardcover edition.


The Catchprices of suburban Sydney, Australia are a family in disarray. Their lives are centered around an auto dealership on the verge of collapse despite their fiddling with the books. No one but 16-year-old Benny really cares, and Benny is a psychotic living in a dingy cellar to avoid his father, a one-time child molester. Benny is determined to transform himself, via an expensive set of motivational tapes, a fancy new suit, and use of a depilatory, into the world's greatest car salesman and thus to save the business. His vision, however, is threatened by the arrival of tax inspector Maria Takis, so he sets out in his own warped way to induce her to drop the investigation. This is more than just Benny's story, however. It concerns an entire family coming apart at the seams, plagued by its own history and the frustration of unfulfilled dreams. Carey's greatest strength lies in his characterizations, in his ability to expose the complexity of human experience and see the victim within the victimizer. Disturbing yet alluring, this is highly recommended for collections of serious fiction.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.

The brilliant Australian novelist, whose award-winning Oscar and Lucinda was a macabre, rather Dickensian study of 19th-century religiosity, is working here in the very different territory of contemporary Sydney. Catchprice Motors is a scruffy auto dealership in a moldering suburb, run by a family of bizarre misfits with a history of child molestation. Granny Frieda goes around with explosives in her handbag, lumpy daughter Cathy longs to be a country singer, dour son Mort tries to fight the sexual lures of his own offspring, hyped-up Benny, who has bought a set of expensive audiotapes that promise to change his life; meanwhile Benny's brother Vish has fled to be a Hare Krishna. The family, perpetually at each other's throats, is brought to an even higher level of crisis by the arrival of a pretty--and pregnant--tax inspector, Maria Takis, to look into their dubious books. It is Carey's great gift to make out of this lurid material a book that is gripping, shocking and sometimes even moving--though the Grand Guignol climax does go over the edge. Yet the visceral understanding with which Carey probes these odd psyches, his remarkable eye for decay and corruption, and the humanity with which he presents Maria and her attempt at love linger in the mind despite the melodramatic windup. (Jan.)

"Fascinating and refreshing...brilliant." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Glorious entertainment, storytelling at its best, a piece of richly comic invention...mesmerizing." --Boston Globe "[Carey's] work has a wild, chance-taking quality that seems to put him in harmony with the spirit of this age. If he keeps on as he has, he will prove to be one of its finest novelists." --Chicago Tribune

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