Second-novelist Davis (1959, 1992) adds a little intrigue to this dull tale of art, love, and death among some black bohemians in New York. Cynthia Kincaid, known to her friends as ``Bird,'' is a sound engineer for Public Radio, having abandoned painting after a scathing review of her first show. Her artistic impulses now seem to be sublimated into her sex life, or, at least, into the art of enticing a wide array of handsome and sexy men into her bed. Her true obsession, though, is the recent death of her best friend, Alex Decatur, an artist ``known for her atavistic clay works.'' Bird is convinced that Alex's fall from her apartment window was no suicide, but somehow related to Alex's violent relation with Frank Burton, a white art critic who also happens to be responsible for the devastating review of Bird's work. Bird and Alex rented adjoining apartments in one of New York's noisier neighborhoods, ``the Quarter,'' blaring with ``the sound of dark bodies in a cramped Babel of passions and spirits.'' When Bird discovers Alex's secret address book, and her library of video diaries, she hopes to find the tell-tale clues to her death. Instead, she realizes that Alex was deliberately trying to torture Burton with outrageous tales of other lovers, which Bird recognizes as based on her own encounters. Burton, meanwhile, fears what might be on the tapes, and eventually sneaks into the apartment only to encounter Bird's elaborate surprise, an art installation that confronts him with the truth. Relying on martial arts and a strange mix of voodoo craziness, Bird gets Burton right where she wants him, and also rediscovers her own talent as an artist along the way. Davis works in lots of asides on black filmmakers, sexual politics among blacks, and religious mumbo-jumbo—all of which diminish interest in the mystery that supposedly drives the plot, but that feels more like an afterthought in this meandering work.
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