Although the Green Dolphin is a bar of ill repute, it is there that Tancred Palmieri, a thief with elegant and erudite tastes, meets Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides one clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and solve the puzzle.
A Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, an aquavit bottle, a framed poem, and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: Tancred is lured in to this beguiling quest, and even though Willow dies before he can begin, he presses on.
As he tracks down the treasure, however, he must enlist the help of Alexander von Wurfel, esteemed copyist, and fend off Willow's heroin dealers, a young albino named ‘Nigger’ Colby and his sidekick, Sigismund ‘Freud’ Luxemburg, a club-footed psychopath, both of whom are eager to get their paws on this supposed pot of gold. And he must mislead Detective Daniel Mandelshtam, his most adored friend.
Based on a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be honorable and what it means to be faithful.
André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His most recent novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, awarded annually to the best Canadian fiction book.
“This gorgeously written, funny adventure tale will keep readers up finishing it while also quietly breaking their hearts with Alexis’s keen observations of people, kindness, and cruelty.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Even though the book is an old-fashioned quest yarn, Alexis’s immense talent gives it an archetypal patina, glossing characters with shades of honor and subtlety that might have been missed in lesser hands.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[An] intellectual adventure yarn … Great fun.” – The Wall Street Journal
“Alexis shapes his mash-up of ancient tropes and ironic flicks into a wonderful story about fate and family, mainly by peopling it with characters who are simultaneously archetypes and believable individuals. And the puzzle is pretty good, too.” — Maclean’s
“It is difficult to convey how gracefully Alexis is able to conjure such baroque minutia without slipping into mannered excess. Just as it is difficult to convey Alexis’s way of avoiding the trappings of genre while offering, in this case, all the essential pleasures of a crime novel: The Hidden Keys is somewhat akin to Elmore Leonard in its attention to idiosyncratic personal style and providing even minor players with active inner lives.” — The Globe and Mail