I have this totally indefensible, embarrassing thing about foreign-sounding proper nouns. I probably should not admit this now, here, but a discussion of this arbitrary disinclination I have will prove germane to the subject of this review, Yelena Akhtiorksaya’s debut novel Panic in a Suitcase (which I’ll say now, just to show my cards, is a masterful work of art). Whenever I see a lot of italicized non-English words that seem unnecessary (e.g. “She said thanks a Dios”) or place names that could have been written in English but weren’t (e.g. “We took a left at the Tour Eiffel”), my eyes glaze over. Something about italicizing text makes it sound different in the reader’s mind. Or maybe I’m just an uncultured jerk. I am not proud of this and my Cuban grandmother wouldn’t be either if she knew about my close-minded weakness. But I’d hazard a guess that a lot of English readers have experienced something like this foreignness-fatigue. The issue is not that the places and names are not in English, but rather that writing them in a different language seems designed to underline the fact of their foreignness. The italics work like a neon sign indicating that here we’ve got something new, something different and exciting. It feels a bit like putting a goatee on Mr. Spock to show that he is evil instead of making him prove it.