Jeffrey Rotter - The Unknown Knowns (4 stars)

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Jeffrey Rotter - The Unknown Knowns

(Jonathan Cape)

SATIRICAL TALE

This debut novel by a graduate of New York’s Hunter College takes its title from Donald Rumsfeld’s famously bamboozling quote. Jeffrey Rotter may have given himself a high watermark of unintentional satire to live up to, but he fortunately produces a killer of an opening line: ‘The obvious way to describe water is with adjectives’.

Obsessive, eccentric and comic book geek Jim Rath infuriates his wife with underwater experiments and a bizarre desire to build a museum to the evolutionary Aquatic Ape theory. His path crosses with Les Diaz, a Department of Homeland Security agent whose job is to inspect pools and water parks for their susceptibility to attacks. Rath thinks Diaz is a long-lost merman. Diaz thinks Rath is a terrorist. The Unknown Knowns is based around a frankly unlikely concept, but it’s in Rotter’s expertly worked, dryly satirical, often tenderly emotive prose that the book finds its strength.

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