Books like The Twenty-Seventh City

The Twenty-Seventh City

2001, Jonathan Franzen


The Twenty-Seventh City is Jonathan Franzen's debut novel, published in 1988. A complex, partly satirical thriller that studies a family unraveling under intense pressure, the novel is set amidst intricate political conspiracy and financial upheaval in St. Louis, Missouri, in the year 1984.

The story proper begins when S. Jammu, an Indian woman who previously served as police commissioner of Bombay and is distantly related to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, takes over duties as the new St. Louis County chief of police. Her surprise appointment is greeted with confusion and suspicion, especially among the political and business elite that make up the county's advisory board, Municipal Growth. Over the coming months, a combination of a cult of personality, a Native American terrorist group, blackmail, and extortion bring most of the city leaders, including the leaders of the black community, to support Jammu. Those not won over or suppressed include General Norris, a right-wing business owner, and Martin Probst, a local construction magnate. While Probst's initial misgivings are more to do with maintaining impartiality, his concerns are deepened by Norris's reports of Jammu's associates engaging in illegal activities, including surveillance of political opponents.

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