London-based Taylor (Pillion Riders, etc., not reviewed) offers a short tale moralistic in its thrust, philosophic in its tone--and of declining interest as it goes on, and on. Raised in poverty, an unpresuming Englishman becomes a great cook, re-creates the cuisine of the great French masters, and finally, in partnership with his extraordinarily ambitious French wife, Sabine, serves as chef of the couple's elite four-star restaurant in London. All goes well (the reader captivated by details of the restaurant and of its shamelessly pretentious clientele) until the grasping Sabine urges her husband not just to re-create dishes, but to create them (""It was only when Sabine suggested, nay insisted, I invent dishes of my own that my trouble started""). Under such pressure, the mild, passionless, and unambitious chef begins to crumble, is escorted by Sabine to a Swiss ""hotel"" for a ""rest""--and, for the book's second half lives through a depersonalizing hell of disorientation, torture, depravity, and horror that--part Poe, part Kafka, part Grand Guignol--is in its enormity an excessive bag of bricks for the kitten it's intended to drown, whether seen as punishment for the meek chefs having been a servant of decadence (possibility one) or for his having lived without sufficient sexual passion (possibility two). The gore is unrelenting (""on a washing line babies are being hung out on meat hooks""), though the greater truth of this curiously theoretical little book may lie in the sorry chefs words: ""I have no story to relate.