Metropolis by B.A. Shapiro
Published by Algonquin Books
Publication date: May 17, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
A storage warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts hardly seems the place to play out a multi-layered suspense novel, but when Metropolis opens a body is found at the bottom of the building’s elevator shaft. As the police circle, the owners of four storage spaces disperse in an effort to keep their secrets safe. Complete strangers, they find their lives suddenly overlap in unexpected ways.
The four are not alone in having secrets. The building’s owner, Seth, and the manager, Rose, both have their own reasons for not wanting too much investigation into the building. For one thing, Seth has no idea that Marta, Serge, and later Liddy all live in their units and Jason uses his as his law office.
This could seem far-fetched if you’re visualizing the sprawling garage-like storage companies found in every city, but the Metropolis was built in the early 1900s as an innovation for city dwellers to store extra belongings and was designed with the look of apartments (minus windows in the interior units and plumbing). More importantly, Shapiro conjures the novel’s ambiance so adroitly it feels believable.
More importantly, author B.A. Shapiro nurtures the lives of her characters, letting each unfold onto the page in its own time. At first, we know only that Marta is working her dissertation, a small space with no windows makes a perfect darkroom for developing Serge’s photos, and Liddy misses her children who are off at boarding school. But, like matryoshka dolls, their situations and motivations are all nested and only come to light as Metropolis progresses. Their back stories are compelling in the way they feed into their present circumstances and disturbing for how real and possible they seem in today’s social and political environment. A page-turning mystery with something extra.
Like mysteries with something more? Shapiro also wrote The Art Forger, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
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