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New Zealand author de la Bere (The Last Deception of Palliser Wentwood, 1999, etc.) gives a piquant twist to the Welcome Home Party.

Middle-aged Crawford Hollander, wealthy wine merchant, considers himself a success. Though a native New Zealander, he’s lived in England for years, where he’s acquired a plummy English accent, a well-born wife, and a country house designed by Lutyens. He’s rich and has a coterie of admiring women who are delighted to accompany him to events his wife Genista would prefer to miss. But his perfect life, so carefully created, begins to crumble when, annoyed by a production of Faust, he abandons his wife and leaves the opera house and then, when ready to go home, discovers he’s been locked out of the house. And though he finds a bed with young New Zealander Mercy Fisher, whose mortgage he pays in return for a number of services rendered, he’s uncharacteristically shaken by the evening’s events. It’s soon clear that Crawford, who’s planning a celebratory visit back to New Zealand—he has a birthday coming up that can be conveniently combined with some business—is not quite the charming and considerate aesthete he appears to be. He cheated his brother-in-law, the Commander, out of his savings; destroyed his sister Rosalia’s marriage; raped Mercy when she was a schoolgirl, then insisted she have the abortion that made her sterile; falsely acquired a vineyard from a struggling couple just as they were about to succeed; and blackmailed Wolf, a brilliant vintner. Now, however, a certain three men (a.k.a. The Welcoming Committee) have their own plans for the return of this successful native son. It’s payback time, and the three do it with style—black-tie and string quartet—as Crawford gets the welcome he really deserves, justice finally served.

Conceptually cute, but sluggish in the telling.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-09-944085-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Vintage UK/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2004