A jokey, muddily satiric first novel, which has sassy things to say about adultery, English academics, and English entitlement systems, while its ruling gimmick--the stew-up of fiction and reality--offers a mildly amusing surprise at the close. The ""cartomancer"" is narrator May Knott (the pun is predictably celebrated), who claims an orphanage childhood and maternal desertion (though now Mum wants to be a mum again). May has been living with Edwin, a medievalist and her (sometime) sex partner and ""patron""--her goal in life is to finish her first novel. But May's entreÃ‰ into the classy world of academe is her card-reading, which she'll perform for a flaky flock of adulterers (one is observed in the bathtub with Edwin, while May and a boozy, possibly incestuous, but passion-fueled sort named Ferg carry on in an adjoining alcove). May's real pals, however, are a feckless family, dirt-poor and just plain dirty. There are a farcical hash of pratfalls and pursuits; a superb highway mess (in which a just-launched boat is among the debris); jug-emptying on raging heads; a fiery death and resurrection; some absurdity about a manuscript in a drowned medieval lectern, etc.--all narrated by May with more jaunty petulance than polish. It all ends with an implosion of reality from a (too confusing) confusion of events. Intermittently amusing.