June 8, 2017

Fall fiction preview: Infinite Ground


This week, as our Google searches for the likes of “breathable fabric,” “second-hand air conditioner,” and “best ice cream in [municipality x]” grow frequent unto obsessiveness, we’re taking a look at some of the books we have forthcoming in the next few months.

In Infinite Ground, his police-procedural-gone-existential, Scotland’s Martin MacInnes tells the story of Carlos, who gets up from a family dinner in the middle of a broiling South American summer and promptly disappears. As investigators try to piece together where he’s gone, more and more of Carlos’s life makes no sense, building into a mystery on scales both vast and miniscule.

It’s a fantastically original, mind-bending debut, and we can’t wait to publish it on October 17. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt.

The case was not clear cut. It interested him. As if it were not enough that the man had disappeared just like that, from the middle of the restaurant, without any warning whatsoever, and further that the mother, in relating the incident, had gone on for some time about what even he would consider insignificant details, it turned out, now, that this woman was not who she claimed to be. She was not related to the disappeared, had in fact never met him, was merely employed by the mother to speak on her behalf, she being—the real mother, that is—still too upset to return to the restaurant.

Maria—he had yet to find out the actor’s name—had continued in her narration at the restaurant, reconstructing for him what had happened, or at least her idea of what had happened, along with some of her apparently inexhaustible supply of speculations. What it came down to, he thought, the fuel for this torrent of words, was her astonishment. What had happened, simply put, was impossible. Carlos had gone to the bathroom and then to all intents and purposes he had stopped existing. ‘There is something awful about it,’ she said, ‘in the old sense.’ She had the feeling she could have followed him directly, gone where he had gone, put each foot in the right place every time, and still been none the wiser. As well as being distraught, confused, she was afraid. It was almost as if she had been moved suddenly into a country whose rules and customs she had not yet mastered, yet she had gone on smiling, carefully choreographing her steps, talking in a slow and laboured translation full of clichés and idioms, ready-made blocks of speech that she could present in the hope it would not become obvious that she did not, in fact, know anything about this bewildering foreign place in which a man can simply be going about his day and then be cancelled. She was not in favour of investigating the occult, that was a dangerous path, she said, a tricky slope, but there was something dark and strange at work here, and often now, even in broadest daylight or while going about her shopping in the supermarket, say, she would watch her step, mindful of the ever-present possibility of going under, of falling, vanishing into a darkness.

He located copies of the local and national papers printed on the day of the disappearance and on those immediately preceding and following. He knew the weather—the last day, incidentally, of rain before the heatwave—the traffic levels; the sporting events; the political engagements. He recorded every crime, however unrelated or innocuous it seemed; took note of every traffic violation in the city in the hours after Carlos had gone missing.

A supplementary pull-out in one of the less reputable dailies had listed an anticipated astronomical event. The event, if that’s what he was to call it—a passing astral arrangement—had been predicted to take place on the date of Carlos’s disappearance, but he could find no further allusions in the subsequent press. Omega Centauri, a globular star cluster thousands of light years away: twelve billion years old and vast enough that from areas low in artificial light it resembles a full moon. However many times he read the article, he couldn’t really understand what it described. He imagined eclipses, moon shadows, breaks in the line of vision. An arbitrary pattern, a geometry moving inconceivable distances away and Carlos, meaninglessly, hidden from view in a shadow line.

He knew the staff at La Cueva and he knew the regulars and he knew each room and every exit. He went out for cigarettes. He visited the bathroom. There was nothing unusual about the restaurant, nothing that seemed to present any opportunities for a sudden and comprehensive disappearance.

He visited morgues and looked through unidentified bodies and saw nothing. Speculating amnesia, he consulted the psychiatric wards and hospitals but got nowhere. The questions were familiar and the staff were sure they had given the police these answers before, some time ago.

He worked largely without thinking. It was the best way. He would fall into something, a discovery. He amassed notes, detailed transcriptions of his days’ enquiries, the places he went to and the people he talked with. The more information that accumulated, the more likely something of significance would come up. Some detail, no matter how innocuous it might appear at first, would be the key to finding out where Carlos had got to on the night of the 24th.

Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes
PAGES: 272
ISBN: 9781612196855
ON SALE: October 17, 2017