> Skip to content

A psychological drama of cat and mouse, A Ladder to the Sky shows how easy it is to achieve the world if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul.

A psychological drama of cat and mouse, A Ladder to the Sky shows how easy it is to achieve the world if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul.

If you look hard enough, you can find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be writer Maurice Swift decides very early on in his career.

A chance encounter in a Berlin hotel with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann gives him an opportunity to ingratiate himself with someone more powerful than him. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell. Whether or not he should do so is another matter entirely.

Once Maurice has made his name, he sets off in pursuit of other people’s stories. He doesn’t care where he finds them – or to whom they belong – as long as they help him rise to the top.

Stories will make him famous but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.


A deliciously dark tale of ambition, seduction and literary theft . . . compelling and terrifying, powerful and intensely unsettling. In Maurice Swift, Boyne has given us an unforgettable protagonist, dangerous and irresistible in equal measure. The result is an ingeniously conceived novel that confirms Boyne as one of the most assured writers of his generation.

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

Maurice Swift, the novelist protagonist of John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky, is a bookish version of Patricia Highsmith’s psychopathic antihero Tom Ripley.

The Times

A dark morality tale in the mould of Patricia Highsmith . . . consistently intriguing

Daily Mail

Everything the wonderful Irish novelist John Boyne writes is special . . . a highly entertaining read

Jake Kerridge, S Magazine, Sunday Express

Gripping . . . John Boyne is a master storyteller and fans will doubtless be captivated by this chilling and darkly comic tale of unrelenting ambition

Daily Express

Boyne delivers a perfect balance of pace and detail to keep you gripped throughout

i Newspaper

Maurice Swift is a literary Tom Ripley . . . a first-class page turner


It charts the rise of Maurice Swift, as cold and manipulative a character as you’re likely to meet this year . . . the story takes an ever darkening series of twists and turns


‘A Ladder to the Sky is endlessness inventive and wickedly funny. Boyne’s irredeemable antihero holds up a brutally well lit mirror to every writer who has ever wondered what they need to do to do that little better...’

Patrick Gale, Author of A Place Called Winter

Clever, chilling and beautifully paced, a study of inner corrosion that Patricia Highsmith could not have done better

The Times

Beware reading this in public: Boyne’s prose inspires such a collision of laughing and wincing that you’re likely to seem a little unbalanced

Washington Post

Maliciously witty, erudite and ingeniously constructed


Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 5, 2019

    Black Swan

    448 pages

    RRP $26.00

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • Audio Download


    August 9, 2018

    Transworld Digital

    Online retailers

    • Audible NZ
    • Google Play Audio NZ
    • Kobo Audiobook
  • EBook


    August 9, 2018

    Transworld Digital

    448 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ


West Berlin

From the moment I accepted the invitation, I was nervous about returning to Germany. It had been so many years since I’d last been there, after all, that it was difficult to know what memories might be stirred up by my return.

It was the spring of 1988, the year the word ‘perestroika’ entered the language, and I was seated in the bar of the Savoy Hotel on Fasanenstraße, contemplating my sixty-sixth birthday, which was only a few weeks away. On the table before me, a bottle of Riesling had been decanted into a coupe glass that, a note in the menu revealed, had been modelled on the left breast of Marie- Antoinette. It was very good, one of the costlier wines on the hotel’s expansive list, but I felt no guilt in ordering it for my publisher had assured me that they were content to cover all my expenses. This level of generosity was something new to me. My writing career, which had begun more than thirty-five years earlier and produced six short novels and an ill-advised collection of poetry, had never been successful. None of my books had attracted many readers, despite generally positive reviews, nor had they garnered much international attention. However, to my great surprise, I had won an important literary award the previous autumn for my sixth novel, Dread. In the wake of The Prize, the book sold rather well and was translated into numerous languages. The disinterest that had generally greeted my work was soon replaced by admiration and critical study, while the literary pages argued over who could claim credit for my renaissance. Suddenly I found myself invited to literary festivals and being asked to undertake book tours in foreign countries. Berlin was the location for one such event, a monthly reading series at the Literaturhaus, and although I had been born there, it did not feel like home.

Continue Reading