Gale is a young English comic writer who has published a novel a year since his 1986 debut (Ease). His fifth novel is as high-spirited and inconsequential as the other four. The straw intended to stir this cocktail is Robin Maitland, now in his late 20s. Eight years before as a student, he had been involved in a virginal but complicated triangle with old childhood chum Candida and her admirer Jake (Robin's heartthrob). It all went horribly wrong for Robin, and he fled to an island monastery called Whelm, where kindly monks tended him through five years of madness and another three of convalescence. Now he is returning to London to attend, as a godfather, the christening of Candida and Jake's second child. It is a London in which, thinks Robin, ""everything's gone hard and shiny and fast."" But his old friends are enormously rich (Candida is the reigning queen of morning television), and his doting parents, Peter and Andrea, are doing well with their upscale kindergarten. For the first time Candida finds herself wildly aroused by Robin, but he is pursuing a fashionable black artist, Faber Washington, and the two men fall in love. The picture is rounded out by Faber's adopted daughter, Iras, an eyeless child prodigy finishing her first novel; and by Marcus, a wealthy homosexual dying of AIDS, whose link to Faber is revealed only later. Despite some highly contrived flights and pursuits towards the end, this is a static novel, and Robin makes an unlikely heartbreaker. Though Gale has cut back his cast list and subplots, and touched on death and madness, he's still writing the same old candyfloss--entertaining in its flip way, but hobbled by undeveloped characters.