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Former punk-rocker turned amateur archeologist mourns for the dead wife he betrayed, in a second from the British author of Ferney (1999).

Patrick Kane is haunted by a cynical song he wrote about wedding vows that became an anthem for millions of unfeeling louts. When his sensitive young wife, Rachel, accidentally heard it on the radio, she assumed it was a crude betrayal of their love. But really, he wrote it only because the "mandarins of punk" thought it would be a hit. No matter. The brokenhearted Rachel ran sobbing into the road, where she and their son, David, were immediately struck by a convenient passing car. Now Patrick wishes he hadn't listened to the music tycoons who persuaded him to hide his marriage from legions of adoring female fans and encouraged his drinking, carousing, and—gasp!—thoughtless behavior. Now he is so alone . . . until he joins an archeological dig in a small English town, rubs shoulders with hearty blokes by the name of Dozer and Ken, meets a Rachel look-alike, and then somehow unearths the grave of a pagan queen. Patrick's dreams echo with fragments of a song chronicling the queen's deeds of valor—fragments uncannily echoed in turn by a local eccentric named Joe, who likes to howl on hilltops and channel the spirits. Joe and Patrick gradually piece together the brave monarch's story, related in a lot of truly dreadful doggerel: "The girl was made in her mother's mould / Her hair was a weave of red and gold, / It flowed from her head like a river spun / From the crimson rays of the western sun. / She was bold as a wolf and fast as a hawk / And she learnt to run before she walked. / When more years passed, a son was born / And the old king knew that his line went on . . .”

Preposterous plot, maudlin prose.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2001
ISBN: 0-553-10863-8
Page count: 322pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001