Jonathan Carroll is an author I read for his excellent writing technique, his just-slightly-askew-from-nature supernatural twists, and his cosmopolitan viewpoint. All this he delivers with admirable regularity; he's become a brand name and practically a genre unto himself to a lot of folks. However, I have come to expect him to lose focus towards the end of his books: he values precision in writing and plot up until the end, where he enjoys leaving lots of things unsaid and lots of threads hanging. This is ideal for book-club discussions, but not so much for me: I know Carroll considers it a feature, but it's something I have to forgive him for rather than something I buy his books for.
This book is less like that than most of his work. The story -- about a young author who finds himself betraying those closest to him and who reaps supernatural consequences -- contains liberal helpings of Carroll's delightfully eccentric characters and unusual details, written with Carroll's usual precision. And it has Carroll's trademark highly imaginative magical touches -- you'd be amazed how scared Carroll can make you with a pair of white gloves, a hat, and some wind-up birds. But it also has a tidy -- and highly disquieting -- conclusion; perhaps the best Carroll has ever created. That, and the comparatively little space the fantastic elements take up in the book, make this a likely good entry point for readers new to Carroll's work.
And, for those who are new to Carroll's work, I suggest finding an entry point. Carroll is a one-of-a-kind fantasist and one of the best authors working today; he should have cross-genre appeal for anyone who admires excellent writing and original thinking. Check him out.