Roy Croucher, 46, is a wealthy, creepy, misanthropic Londoner who likes to follow strangers around and play unpleasant little practical jokes on them. (He especially hates Americans.) Croucher's latest victim: a youngish American businessman named Tony Richmonde, glimpsed in a bar, in the company of a classy blonde named Chloe. And, while Roy primly narrates his minor (but elaborate) attacks on the married Mr. Richmonde, alternating chapters fill in the sleazy background of the girl named Chloe: her stint as a topless London hostess; her dabblings in lesbianism; her months on the orgy circuit in California. Moreover, it eventually becomes clear that this Chloe is one and the same with ""Isobel,"" the devoted wife whose loss Croucher still mourns. Is Croucher consciously unaware that Chloe is his runaway wife--or is he knowingly keeping this information from the reader? That's just one of the irritating ambiguities in Salaman's tenuous black comedy, which winds up in a series of labored ironies: Croucher reveals Richmonde's adultery to Mrs. Richmonde; he teams up with Richmonde's business enemies to reduce the American jerk to a whimpering wreck; but, while Chloe/Isobel comes down with terminal cancer in the very last pages, Richmonde and crazy Croucher wind up together in a sort of folie a deux. Despite some stylishness in the delivery: strained, kinky psycho-whimsy--and especially flat in the droning portrait of crazy, tradition-loving, American-hating Croucher.
Pub Date: April 1, 1984
Page Count: -
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles