Tim Wynne-Jones's (The Emperor of Any Place) latest work is a delirious, wild expedition that places the reader inside the perspective of a narrator whose every thought, memory and experience is unreliable.
17-year-old Donovan Turner (Dono to most, Turn to girlfriend Beatrice) is in the passenger seat of a car. On the backseat, there is "something under wraps, something still breathing but smelling as if it had stopped." "Too tired to keep his guard up," broken phrases and random words seep from Dono "in a slow drip": "Are you." He doesn't know where he is and he thinks he "did something bad" this evening, but he's "not sure what."
Concurrently, Beatrice sits by Dono's bedside in an intensive care unit. Neither his mother nor father can be reached--his mother is camping and his father is probably drunk--so Bee is the only loved one at his side. Donovan is "only barely alive" and Bee is trying desperately to make sense of the words he keeps muttering. "Are... you... See... Oh..."
Back and forth the work goes, traveling between Dono's alternate, purgatorial world and Bee's tangible, real one as a murder mystery--with Dono as the prime suspect--surfaces. This lightning-fast, dreamy and dark work is a contemporary Dante's The Inferno with nods to Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant (Wynne-Jones quotes both works at the beginning of the novel). Dono travels through a bleak, confusing (under)world, desperate to piece together the events that brought him to this place; Beatrice does detective work, collecting the scattered clues and constructing a timeline to prove Dono's innocence. The Ruinous Sweep is a feverish journey designed to make both the solution to and the mystery itself elusive. Unsettling and powerful, Wynne-Jones's work is intellectually and emotionally demanding and leads to a surprisingly strong catharsis. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness