BACK FROM THE DEAD by Chris Petit

BACK FROM THE DEAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A dreary, disjointed tale about a lovesick cop and other obsessive types, from the author of The Psalm Killer (1997).

Youselli is a New York City police officer, apparently so underemployed that he's got scads of time to moonlight on behalf of McMahon, a once top-of-the-charts rock star now on a slow downward slide. From handling security at parties, Youselli has graduated to more complex chores when those upsetting letters start arriving: strange letters, intimate and erotic letters, scary letters signed, simply, Leah. Not for a minute, however, does McMahon believe that Leah wrote them. Leah, you see, has been dead for 20 years—a death that he himself witnessed. Find out the who and why behind this assault on his peace of mind, McMahon charges Youselli. Soon enough, however, as the epistolary flow continues unabated, the cop finds himself less detached about the case than a good detective ought to be. The letters reach out to him, something about them resonates in his cynical, hard-edged psyche. Leah becomes the stuff of his fantasies, more compelling to him than she ever was to McMahon. Meanwhile, Youselli's real life is in a state of severe dysfunction. His emotionally disturbed ex-wife may be stalking him, and he's enmeshed, at age 36, in two affairs with women decades older than he is. Nothing truly matters to Youselli, though, except the hunt for Leah. She was supposed to have died as the result of an accident, but did anyone actually see her corpse? Even a question as straightforward as that produces nothing but ambiguous answers. Youselli, driven, persists until he unexpectedly stumbles on the clues that unravel the mystery. By then, however, he wishes he hadn't.

Once again, Petit displays flashes of talent but remains a writer in search of a story.

Pub Date: March 30th, 2001
ISBN: 0-679-45127-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001




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