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Magnus Mills's first novel, The Restraint of Beasts, was hailed by Thomas Pynchon as a "comic wonder." His second novel, All Quiet on the Orient Express, is an equally edgy blend of high-grade comedy and low-grade paranoia. With insidiously beguiling deadpan charm, Mills draws us again into the world of contract employment, this time in England's Lakes District. The novel's narrator, an itinerant odd-jobber, is camping out, waiting for summer to end so that he can set off for some vague notion of the East . . . Turkey, Persia, overland to India. In the meantime, he agrees to do a small painting job for the owner of his campsite. One job leads to another. Before long, our hero is hopelessly and hilariously enmeshed in the off-season mysteries of the placid northern English community, grappling with dark forces beyond his power-some of which hang out at the local pub. To think it all began with a simple paint job . . .