January 19, 2014

Review: The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

The Secret History of Las Vegas

Author: Chris Abani
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books


Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.


The Secret History of Las Vegas is a compelling and gritty mystery that takes readers on a thrill ride across the world to solve the case of a serial killer. There are several smaller story lines mixed into the main plot, which makes the book multilayered and mind bending. All the different stories seem disjointed when we first read about them, but it becomes increasingly clear the further into the book how they are all connected. I loved seeing how the puzzle pieces of the mystery fit together to leave the reader questioning everything they thought they knew and then having it all turned completely upside down. There were tons of fantastic twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout the entire book - which is always a sure sign of an incredible author. The book's characters, multiple settings, twists and turns, and the smaller story lines woven together make this story one that warrants more than a single reading. It's one of those books that you have to read a few times to pick up on all the clues and nuances that you missed each time before. The writing was impeccable with intense descriptions and vivid imagery. I found myself mesmerized by the way the author wrote as well as the story he told so much that I felt I myself was amid the characters in the book. With so many different layers, unbelievable twists, and flawed characters - this is a book that will hook readers within the first page. Very highly recommended for fans of mysteries as well as readers who want to shake things up and read something altogether fresh and original. I will definitely be reading the rest of the author's books and re-reading this one while we await his next release.


Chris Abani is the acclaimed author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Hemingway/PEN Prize, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the Hurston Wright Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many honors. Born in Nigeria, he is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.

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