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A delayed-revelation melodrama set against the 1947 Partition of British India into India and Pakistan; first US publication for this British author. A frame device has Mark Hodder, middle-aged English barrister, returning in 1984 to the subcontinent of his childhood, where his father Anthony mysteriously disappeared in 1948, leaving behind the body of Roger Henshaw (both men were senior members of the Indian Civil Service). In the palmy days of the early 1930's, they had been close friends at college; their friendship foundered over Roger's brutal assertiveness. As Partition nears, the passive Anthony feels ""vibrations of an enormous uncertainty,"" while Roger is impelled to act, working with RSSS (a group of Hindu extremists) to head off the inevitable. He is busy on other fronts too: covering up his role in the death of a young Englishman; framing Gut, the son of a Hindu friend, accusing him of serial murders; and resuming an old affair with Anthony's wife Jane. It is only when the British authorities refuse to arrest Henshaw, and Gur dies from injuries inflicted during communal violence, that Anthony acts unilaterally and forces Roger to confess, shooting him after the final revelation that Mark is Roger's son. He then stumbles off into the mountains, to survive (maybe, just maybe) in a Tibetan monastery. At different moments this exceptionally muddled novel is about the mischief caused by a maverick British administrator; the communal rioting surrounding Partition; and--a steady drumbeat--the war between the sexes, seen as instigated by woman-as-castrator. None of this ever comes into focus, and occasional splashes of color do not compensate for the confusion. Skip this one.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow