You don’t expect an elegantly written literary novel to double as a thriller, but as you read Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood, it dawns on you that the book you’re holding is doing just that. Without ever relaxing her attention to sculpted sentences and the limning of personality, Catton steadily weaves several characters’ trajectories together in an increasingly complex web of deceit and self-deceit, as they try to out-maneuver others, and to confound the power structure itself. Though there is scarcely a wholly likable character in the bunch, you are compelled to see how things play out. Although some depictions verge on caricature, Catton’s indictment of aspects of the contemporary scene—from blatant selfishness to the surveillance state-- resonates dramatically. Compelling and thought-provoking.