Personae, Sergio De La Pava’s second novel, would make more sense as his first. Slim, anxious to amuse, awash with irony and knowing pastiche, it seems like the preppy precursor to A Naked Singularity, his debut. Where the latter, an expansive and frequently hilarious portrait of the New York criminal justice system, showed blithe and masterful disregard for literary predecessors, Personae frets in their shadow.
It follows Helen Tame, an acclaimed concert pianist turned homicide detective, whose inquiry into the death of 111-year-old writer, Antonio Arce, is derailed into literary criticism when she discovers a cache of his unpublished writings. Certain they contain the key to his death, she presents these largely baffling texts –