Metropolis begins like a classic whodunit: Bostonglobe.com reports that someone fell down an elevator shaft at Cambridge's Metropolis Storage Warehouse, after which the individual was rushed to the hospital with critical injuries. According to the news story, "Neither police nor hospital officials identified the victim." As B.A. Shapiro's ingeniously plotted novel unspools, readers will try to determine who fell and why. But Metropolis prompts other, equally consuming questions: What would compel people to take up residence in their self-storage units, and what would it take to turn their lives around?
Among the renters at Metropolis, a six-story brick pile near MIT on bustling Mass. Ave., are Jason, a Black immigration lawyer who left his corporate job to strike out on his own, his storage unit his new office; Liddy, who is under the thumb of a rich and, recently, violent husband; Marta, a Venezuela-born doctoral candidate in violation of a deportation order, the result of clerical errors; and Serge, a street photographer who has never shown his work to a soul. Rose manages Metropolis. She is a mother of three and wife of an injured Afghanistan veteran with diminished earning power.
The novel's perspective wanders among the story's key players, whose lives intersect in fate-altering ways. The building's dodgy history is yet another of Metropolis's finely etched dramas. Shapiro, who specializes in novels about art (The Art Forger; The Muralist), will hopefully indulge the reviewer a sports metaphor, especially given that the Boston Red Sox are a touchstone in Metropolis: she takes her time loading the bases, and in the last inning, she hits it out of the park. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer