Though the 17 stories collected here range from the disastrous effects of arranged marriage (""Cupid's Dart"") to a...

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THE HABIT OF WIDOWHOOD

Though the 17 stories collected here range from the disastrous effects of arranged marriage (""Cupid's Dart"") to a dog's-eye-view of homicide (""Dog Television""), no one but Barnard (The Bad Samaritan, 1995, etc.) could have written any of them: The tone of ironic, amused malice is unmistakable. Given the author's formulaic handling of murder--which arises almost invariably from thwarted passions chastened by a tone of high civility--the resourcefulness of Barnard's plotting is impressive, whether he's reuniting a boarding-school bully with his former butt (""The Stuff of Nightmares"") or suavely updating Charlotte Bront‰ (""Reader, I Strangled Him""). Only the quietly acidulous ""Gentleman in the Lake"" and the farcical ""Balmorality"" are true standouts, but fans will devour the whole collection in a single guilty gulp.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1439157375

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996