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When the villain of a supernatural/reincarnation novel is a table, you can't expect much real terror action--and you sure don't get it here. Ray and Liz Armacost are successful American writers living in England with their two young near-genius sons. Their fat weird neighbor, named Sybil (of course), makes them a gift of a Florentine table that has two strange faces carved into it, faces which seem to pass from smiling to gloating according to whatever ghastly new turn the plot takes. And when the boys are enrolled in a school just a shade less posh than Eton, the furniture-inspired evil spreads: Why does their actor acquaintance come down with a rare swelling and die overnight? Why do the boys play a nasty joke on the school caretaker--who is nearly electrocuted and falls into a boiler? Ray, naturally, is disturbed and starts sleuthing; suspicous about the table, he calls in an appraiser from Sotheby's and finds that it was made especially for a Pope to send to Richard III. And further researches uncover astounding parallels to Richard III's murder of the princes in the Tower. . . and that vengeance is being worked out via reincarnation. Every device in the plot is chewed over and over by Ray and Liz while the reader takes a quick nap on the padding. A final pair of murders, off-stage witches sabbath, and racing about by Ray when his sons disappear--all of it fails to grip; a strictly second-hand and low-energy stab at commercial chills.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Scribners