Crime of Fashion, Cuban-born Cuban-born José Latour’s first novel since immigrating to Canada from Spain, brings his recurring protagonist, Elliot Steil, to the author’s adopted home of Toronto. When Jenny Scheindlin, retired fashion model and daughter of Steil’s former boss, is kidnapped by the Islamic Army of Canada, it falls to Steil and two Israeli agents to get her back.
The novel starts slowly, jumping across swaths of time as it sketches the weeks of elaborate planning prior to the kidnapping, laying the groundwork for a web of intrigue and suspicion among the characters. Steil soon comes to realize that all is not as it seems with the Israelis, or, for that matter, the kidnappers. A subplot has Steil struggling to comprehend the Israelis’ relationship with each other and with Jenny, and trying to protect himself from the potential fallout from their involvement in the investigation.
As languidly as the novel begins, once the story starts to move, the timeframe compresses, and every moment could have dire consequences for young Jenny’s life. The novel maintains its tension throughout, propelled by prose that is alternately sparse and lyrical, all leading up to a surprising conclusion.
Latour skilfully and subtly plays with coincidence, allowing the very experiences that have created his criminals to defeat them in the end. If you’ve never read Latour, Crime of Fashion is a fantastic introduction to his work.