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Breezy, smirky British sit-corn from the author of the somewhat more substantial Secret Lemonade Drinker (1977)--with neat repartee, sardonic asides, and a tad of clumsy, lethal revenge at a Fawlty Towers-ish country inn. The proprietor of the riverside Bali Hotel is narrator Martin Lomax, 38, an easygoing bachelor who's finally ready to consider marriage; the bride-to-be is horoscope-writer Laurel, fast with the one-liners and fun in bed. But Martin's engagement weekend is blighted by a face from the past: among a group of six boorish golfers is none other than fat Edwin Catchpole, who 20 years ago gave young Martin sadistic treatment in an RAF brig! Martin's revenge? He secretly locks the drunken Catchpole up in the hotel cellar. Then, when Catchpole gets sober--and violent, Martin has to get him drunk again. . . with grim accidental results: the unconscious prisoner drowns in three inches of water when the cellar is flooded. And though neither the police nor Catchpole's (un-grieving) pals have suspicions about just how the dead man wound up drunk in the cellar, fiancÉe Laurel knows. . . and leaves. So, at the fadeout, loner Martin--who has just sold the Bali to an old prep-school pal--heads for Europe, alone again. Some of the nonstop patter here is sophomoric (""One swallow doesn't make a blow job."") The faintly nasty death-of-Catchpole--with echoes of Dorothy L. Sayers--never really rises to black comedy. But the hotel-bar regulars (a ne'er-do-well schemer, a salty widow) offer lots of quick, wry commentary; and this ironic episode is steadily amusing on its own mild, chintzy terms.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles