A skillful second novel from Corrigan (Tommy Was Here, 1993) that pokes at the seedy underside of Continental glamour. Daniel Marriner dropped out of Cambridge three years ago and moved to France, much to his parents' dismay as well as his sister Rachel's, who thus became the sole recipient of the domineering Mr. and Mrs. Marriner's unwanted critical attention. Now, back in England, Daniel's three years abroad are shrouded in mystery. At first, Daniel seems perfectly content living with the now-married Rachel and her family, holding a menial job in a hotel restaurant, and talking through the nights with Rachel about their unhappy childhood with cold, unloving parents. He is reticent about his time away, but willing to humor Rachel's romanticization of it. Still, throughout this oddly placid time there are signs of an impending disaster, proving that Daniel's past is not so easily forgotten: a strange car parked in front of Rachel's home, a man taking pictures of the house, the appearance of Daniel's unnaturally handsome French friend, Luc. With Luc's arrival, Daniel's precarious peace is first threatened and then shattered when Rachel's eldest child, Guy, disappears along with Daniel's watch. Daniel finally realizes that he can elude France no more than he can his childhood, and that perhaps he doesn't even want to. In order to insure Guy's safe return, Daniel trades his freedom for the boy's and at the same time acknowledges that his own freedom was never more than illusory. Neither the characters nor the mystery of Daniel's past is entirely fleshed out, but Corrigan's successful evocation of doom, along with his building of suspense, makes for an eerie and strangely satisfying read.
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