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Publisher's Summary

“An addictive Rubik’s Cube of vice that keeps turning up new patterns of depravity...a satire of writerly ambition wrapped in a psychological thriller...A Ladder to the Sky is an homage to Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, but its execution is entirely Boyne’s own." (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

“Take Meg Wolitzer's novel The Wife...and cross it with Patricia Highsmith's classic Ripley stories, about a suave psychopath, and you've got something of the crooked charisma of John Boyne's new novel, A Ladder to the Sky." (NPR)  

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for fame. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent - but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own. 

Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful - but desperately lonely - older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel. 

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall....

Sweeping across the late 20th century, A Ladder to the Sky is a fascinating portrait of a relentlessly immoral man, a tour de force of storytelling, and the next great novel from an acclaimed literary virtuoso.

©2018 John Boyne (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"John Boyne’s delicious new novel A Ladder to the Sky...spins out over several decades with thrilling unpredictability, following Maurice as he masters the art of co-opting the stories of others in increasingly dubious ways. And while the book reads as a thriller with a body count that would make Highsmith proud, it is also an exploration of morality and art: Where is the line between inspiration and thievery? To whom does a story belong?" (Vanity Fair)

"Maurice has the heart of a sniper...marvelously engaging, barbed and witty." (New York Times Book Review)

"A darkly funny novel that races like a beating heart." (People)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Worth Waiting For

I was in a situation where I had to listen for about five hours (I was driving by myself). It took me about three hours in to get interested. The whole novel is about writers — not my favorite subjects. I like it when writers describe more diverse social milieus. Also it opens with hours of homosexual obsession. I suppose this would interest others. But once it lurches out of that, the novel gets more complicated and offers some surprises. The ending is more drawn out and clever than I’d prefer. Not as good as Since We Fell or Something in the Water, but worth listening to.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Carmen
  • 2018-11-20

Excellent

It’s just excellent, and my advice is don’t turn it off in the beginning and keep listening it will keep you wanting more... just excellent

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • snack
  • 2018-12-08

it made me squirm

The story was a little predictable, but the interpersonal interactions were so full unspoken and spoken conflict that I had to turn it off to regain my composure...not since "Who's Afraid of Virginia"...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan
  • 2018-11-29

Predictable.

Utterly unlikeable protaganist. Low stakes. Nothing pulled me along except astonishment that Maureen Corrigan gave this a good review. I wish I hadn't finished it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • roseanne woerner
  • 2018-11-29

How devious and diabolical can a person be?

The main character of the book, Maurice Swift, gave me an edgy feeling from the start. As Erich Ackerman detailed his tragic love story and unintended consequences, I sensed Maurice had a plan for himself. From he beginning, there was no one Maurice wouldn't step on to make his own dream come true. Every person he could gain something from was his victim in some fashion or other. No one was safe.
Boyne writes Maurice as a beautifully handsome man without soul or conscience. Every time a different character was introduced, I mentally said, Uh-oh. Surely, he couldn't, but then, he did.
Great story. Great narration. One of the best I've listened to for a while.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
  • 2018-12-24

Terrific, compelling story......

I am a selective reader and have to say that this story is one of my all time favorites. Boyne's language; dialogue; and plot development is outstanding! A great study of a genuine Psychopath! Thank you!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Autodidact
  • 2018-12-02

Wish there we 20 novels by John Boyne yet unread!!

His work is the best writing and story I have had the pleasure to discover

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Philip
  • 2019-01-16

BRILLIANT NOVEL WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES

It's both a psychological thriller and a black comedy. The performances are masterful and the psychological understanding (I'm a psychologist) are observed with richness and intensity. Both tense and humorous with the Gore Vidal section one of the best pieces of dialogue and character I've ever read.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sylvia M. Raymond
  • 2019-01-14

Incredible Story

This was a disturbing, yet believable story. I was enthralled. Also, the narration was impeccable.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Tracy
  • 2019-01-14

enjoyable but predictable

it was highly predictable but well written and entertaining. it was performed quite well also.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • MomIsReading
  • 2019-01-05

Not my favorite Boyne

I’m going to be contrary. I loved The Hearts Invisible Furies. In fact so much it’s one of my top 5 favs of all times. In Boyne’s latest, he gives us an utterly despicable human being in Maurice. My three star rating has nothing to do with the writing, which is superb. It comes from me just not being as engaged in the storyline. It felt a little too long with additional characters that will be soon forgettable. I recommend Hearts to everyone who asks me for recommendations.