A love-triangle--holding together for a while in eerie balance (with all three parties fully aware), then reaching its inevitable collapse. Humphrey is a prosperous British businessman in the food service industry. (Not very commendably, he arranges for deluxe restaurants to install time-saving microwaves.) His wife Beth, the ""perfect woman"" of the title, knows--to the disbelieving scorn of her grown daughters--that Humphrey is having an affair with Sylvie, a young and independent builder. But Beth doesn't protest; she's too much the calm, capacious, ""ripe, enveloping presence"" to be discomposed by humiliation. And though Beth's behavior surprises Humphrey, he certainly isn't complaining: ""What he really wanted was wives. In his experience, if you'd found something wonderful that worked, you could do it again; if you were honest and straight you could repeat any success."" But problems do arise when Humphrey counts too much on Beth's regal bearing, her forgiving specialness: he goes ahead and bigamistically marries Sylvie in order that she bear him a son. So. . . down comes the pyramid of cards: Beth howls in awful pain, grows sick; Sylvie, pregnant, miscarries; and Humphrey, having tried to have every little cake for the eating too, ends up with nearly nothing. Slaughter (The Banquet, Heart of the River) again displays a talent for evoking intense sexual combat, for suggesting the links between food and sexual imagery--but she also, once again, makes her demonstration of male weakness a bit too one-aided to be completely persuasive.