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The sudden death (heart failure brought on, it turns out, by torture) of their generous wheeler-dealer friend Tommy Apple plunges Joe and Judy Constantine into a half-lit world of criminal seams and unscrupulous cops. First come the polite requests from deferential Inspector Rogers (Scotland Yard) and mysterious Oliver Stonehouse (the Home Office) and the more direct appeals of Hector Gutierrez, the strong right arm of charismatic entrepreneur Ray Fernandez. They all want a consignment of cocaine-filled wooden toys that Tommy spirited away en route from Hungary, and they all assume that Joe, who's gone in with Tommy on lots of legitimate-looking deals before, can find them. In due course, Joe does find them--but finds too that his troubles have just begun, as he decides to turn them over, first to the law, then to Fernandez, in an attempt to hide his own dirty secret (his one favor to Tommy, a sex-photo shoot of Helen Donovan and other bodies in Tunisia a few years before) by getting everybody off his back. By this time, though, Fernandez has launched a two-pronged seduction of both Constantines, Joe via visions of money and power--big ideas about the labyrinthine businesses Tommy's left the couple in his will--Judy via a more traditional method. In chapters narrated alternately by Joe and Judy, Alvarez (The Savage God, The Biggest Game in Town, etc.) deepens the aura of fatalistic gloom as this childless, loving, middle-aged couple finds their wishes coming true and their world coming apart. Slackly plotted--its title, despite Alvarez's best efforts, an empty promise--but still a highly effective mood piece, right down to the appropriately bleak anticlimax.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House