AN EVIL STREAK by Andrea Newman
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Here's that nasty tale of Troilus and Criseyde updated and London-ized, with a slimily seductive, bisexual narrator named Alexander Kyle in the role of the quintessential voyeur and panderer. As confidant to his father-less, nubile niece Gemma, Kyle's middle-aged bachelor life is vicariously satisfactory--until Gemma marries dull Dr. Clark and drifts off into unexotic motherhood, leaving Uncle Alex obsessionless. Enter David, Kyle's part-time houseboy, an out-of-work actor who specializes in destructive liaisons with impressionable matrons. It takes Kyle no time at all to arrange for Gemma and David to meet, ignite, and set up his spare room as their rendezvous shangri-la. (Secret intercoms and one-way mirrors provide Uncle Alex with live skinflicks twice a week.) ""We were carving up Gemma between us as if she were Poland at the Congress of Vienna in 1815,"" he reports, increasingly frustrated with being old, odd man out--and only Gemma's impregnation by David (Kyle fiddles with her diaphragm) will come close to satisfying his need to participate, manipulate, and destroy. ""You are going to blame me, because it turned out badly,"" he warns us, ""badly"" meaning one abortion, one suicide attempt (""removing bloodstains from carpets and upholstery is very difficult and expensive""), and one irate, wife-forgiving, uncle-banishing husband. But it's not easy to blame so entertainingly cynical and hopelessly ingenuous (yes, both) a culprit, and Uncle Alex achieves an almost Aschenbachian pathos in his fixations and his punishment: ""Without Gemma my days are as if Technicolor had not yet been invented."" The total effect is as shiny-surfaced and un-resonant as with Newman's others (e.g. City Lover, Three Into Two Won't Go), but she knows how to tighten the slender threads and how to cater to the leering, evil streak in us all.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday