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 An elegant, hyperliterary thriller by the late English critic and novelist. Left unfinished at Connolly's death, it has been completed by Oxford scholar and poet Peter Levi. Stephen Kemble, the narrator, is ``an unimportant novel reviewer'' assigned to write the obituary of the very important novelist Sir Mortimer Gussage for the files of a London newspaper. But he manages to lose the obituary--or is it stolen?--while visiting Sir Mortimer at his Wiltshire home. On the morning after Kemble's arrival, Sir Mortimer is found dead, with the obituary on his pillow and a plate of poisonous fruit on his nightstand. Murder? Suicide? Or a simple heart attack? Kemble's attempt to unravel the mystery of Sir Mortimer's death uncovers what turn out to be the even greater mysteries of the old man's life--the uncertain authorship of his books, the undefined status of his ``houseguests,'' the strange goings-on of a secret society called the Gassendi Club--and embroil him in a weird love triangle with Sir Mortimer's widow and daughter. Once the mystery is solved, the Freudian elements of the plot stand forth to reveal a story that is less a matter of crime than aesthetics. Connolly's young writer-- who peers into the remains of his elder--is, in one sense, the real killer of the book, since he ends up occupying the role left vacant by his precursor's death. What begins as a mystery ends as a fable- -a rather cynical metaphor of literary ambition and success. Masterful, sophisticated, and endlessly witty. Levi's portions are unobtrusive and true to the tone set by Connolly. A delightful conceit.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40433-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991