Matthew, the 16-year-old narrator, is at Christopher's funeral--sardonic, despairing Christopher, it transpires, has been killed in an accident, riding his bike at breakneck speed. And the rest of this novel, set outside Munich, will be devoted to uncovering--via flashbacks and conversations/confrontations--the real cause of death. But even as guitarist Matthew and violinist Ursula mourn pianist Christopher and denounce his persecutors (parents, teachers, classmates), it is obvious that Christopher is being set up as an armor-plated weakling, a social rebel with no human feeling. When he and Matthew spend an idyllic evening with some British students outside Vienna, Christopher yammers about transience and death; when he confides to Matthew that Ursula has bedded him, he says callously that it ""didn't help""; when he runs away, a scapegoat suffers for his disappearance (""No one is ever uninvolved""). Worse, the philosophical and psychological modulation that the author strives for--especially in her treatment of the adults--is shattered by the disclosure that Christopher ran away, cravenly, because he thought Ursula was pregnant. Thus, Christopher is buried for Matthew, along with his cynicism; and whether or not he intended suicide is moot. Mostly, then, a familiar story--all the more unconscionably rigged because it pretends to some depth.