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This, while not a sequel, is contiguous to the earlier (1965) Toyland in which two orphaned youngsters were handed over to two professional killers by their uncle. Whereas the first novel was, in spots, successfully grim, this is at best glum and most of it takes place in the kinked mind of Walterus Wold, the uncle, who stands to inherit $100,000 with the disposition of the children. From the beginning, when Walterus is seen, not only cleaning but scouring the cellar, disturbed by prowlers? phantoms? it is clear that he is paranoid. As the novel moves upstairs, in the massive, cluttered, dark house in which Walter lives, lovelessly with his long-suffering wife, Hendrika, the story remains just as confined--ingrown, irritable, solitary. Walter is the last of a line of a family which made ""enemies before they made money""--""wolverines wearing bowties and suspenders."" The past floods back, crowds him, but whereas in the earlier book what happened to the children seemed to matter--here what happens to Walterus Wold is of indifferent concern. Perhaps because Mr. Smith, who can write, does not write simply enough: his prose is as dense as the timberland of the gaunt midwest (Charlevoix, Michigan) where the story is set but never gets going.

Publisher: Little, Brown