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The Readymade Thief
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The Readymade Thief
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“The most must-read of all must-reads.” —Marie Claire“A kickass debut from start to finish.” —Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground...
“The most must-read of all must-reads.” —Marie Claire“A kickass debut from start to finish.” —Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground...
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  • “The most must-read of all must-reads.” —Marie Claire

    “A kickass debut from start to finish.” 
    Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad

    Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run.
     
    Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, Lee finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle. But the façade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. And they believe Lee holds the key to it all.
     
    Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city—empty aquariums, deserted motels, patrolled museums, and even the homes of vacationing families. But the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude. Desperate and out of options, Lee steps from the shadows to face who is after her—and why.
     
    A novel of puzzles, conspiracies, secret societies, urban exploration, art history, and a singular, indomitable heroine, The Readymade Thief heralds the arrival of a spellbinding and original new talent in fiction.


Excerpts-

  • From the cover PROLOGUE

    TO make your way to the DePaul Aquarium and Museum of Natural History, on Petty Island in the middle of the Delaware River, you can drive through New Jersey and over the only bridge. But then you’ll be confronted by a CITGO guard and will either have to social-engineer your way in (and good luck with that) or be forced to turn around and go back. Better to temporarily liberate a small boat from one of the old piers on the Philly side and row the half mile across the river. Once on the island, you’ll want to avoid the large shipping  lot—busy with dockworkers in the daytime and prowled  at night by a security cruiser—and instead cut through the wetlands to the southern end of the island. The aquarium stands nearly solitary amid a village of bulldozed foundations, one of two preserved relics from an aborted 1960s attempt to turn the island into some sort of tourist attraction. The other is the Blizzard, a rusting megalith of a roller coaster that silhouettes the night sky. The aquarium—a long, low-slung, single- story building—hunkers in its shadow.

    Entry to the unguarded aquarium is straightforward. Although the front gate and the doors are chained shut, climbing the stone wall on the eastern side is not hard, and there is a loading dock around back whose steel door has been pried open at the bottom. Inside you’re free to shine your flashlight at will, letting it trail over the rows of empty tanks, some with bone-whitened coral and ersatz reef displays still intact. You can climb down into the alligator pit and crawl into old burrows or over rocks coated in a patina of dried algae. A row of life-sized plaster shark models still hangs above the entrance lobby, fins and tails cracked but otherwise complete. The fossils are gone from the Paleozoic Room, but one display remains intact: a Cambrian ocean diorama of faded plastic models—orange trilobites, green nautiluses, sea slugs, kelp, and anemones, a frozen, surreal arena of underwater plants and feverishly imagined bugs.

    It is in this room that Lee has spent hours, losing herself in the diorama every time she visits the derelict aquarium. She imagines that this must be what scuba diving feels like: isolated in an alien seascape.  Tomi, the other member of the Philadelphia Urbex Society (membership: two), is not with her tonight, because tonight she needs to be away from Tomi and his endless talk, his name-dropping arcane art movements—Fluxus and Lettrism, Pataphysics and Situationist Psychogeography—his insatiable craving for her attention.

    Urban exploration is not the safest of recreations, especially not for a single female,  especially a female as slight and—as  Tomi  once (but only once) put it—as elfin as Lee, but she feels safer here than at other sites. The sheer remoteness makes the aquarium uninhabitable by squatters, as testified by the dearth of graffiti or other vandalism. She supposes  that one  of the Petty Island  guards  could  potentially come by, but it is unlikely: the aquarium is not part of CITGO property (the whole  wetlands area  of the island  is under  heavy dispute between environmentalists and local developers), and by nature security guards  are incurious and lazy.

    Now she sits on an old wooden office chair she’s commandeered from behind the cashier’s desk, staring past the pregnancy test stick in her hand at the little plastic seascape, the broken fronds and wilted arthropods, all now faded and cracked, and thinks about the tiny thing growing inside her. Lee knows who the father is,...

About the Author-

  • Augustus Rose is a novelist and screenwriter. He was born in the northern California coastal town of Bolinas, and grew up there and in San Francisco. He lives in Chicago with his wife, the novelist Nami Mun and their son, and he teaches fiction writing at the University of Chicago.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 26, 2017
    The 17-year-old heroine of Rose’s debut novel, a richly detailed intellectual thriller set in contemporary Philadelphia, has already been through an adventurous childhood and adolescence when she ends up in juvie, set up by a former friend for a crime she hasn’t committed. Not that Lee Cuddy hasn’t earned her stay there: a natural-born shoplifter, she has also sold enough drugs to accumulate thousands of dollars in cash. Escaped from prison, she winds up in a creepy, cultish home for runaways and then goes on the lam with Tomi, a gentle Czech boy who has a talent for data retrieval, a taste for urban exploration, and a passion for the work of French artist Marcel Duchamp (whose “readymades” cemented the idea that ordinary objects could be considered art if their assembler defined them as such). After Lee steals a satchel from the office of the cult leader, she finds herself pursued by the mysterious Societe Anonyme, which is involved in the production of designer drugs. While Rose may put in one too many obscure references to alchemy and unified field theory, Lee is an excellent character, and the many shadowy settings she travels through make for a fascinating vision of an alternate, underground Philadelphia.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Emily Rankin's youthful, brusque voice brings somber urgency to Rose's complex and winding prose. Her style fits a novel that is as full of difficult clues as an escape room and as full of danger as any murder mystery. Amid mounting suspense, listeners follow young Lee Cuddy as she steals and sells drugs, then becomes incarcerated and after that, homeless. At a later point in time, her involvement with art history, secret societies, and a far-reaching conspiracy threatens her at every turn. This deeply layered story has many moving parts, and Rankin works diligently to keep listeners engaged in the swiftly changing landscape. Ideal for fans of art, thrillers, mysteries, and darkly intense coming-of-age tales. K.S.B. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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