First-novelist Monette puts sentences together surprisingly well--surprisingly, because he has chosen to waste his words on a tediously madcap caper, has weighted it down with mooing over relationships, and has seemingly grabbed this opportunity to rush into print with as many graphic homosexual couplings as possible. Our rather likable narrator is 45-year-old Rick, who answers a summons for help from his young ex-lover Dave, a Massachusetts shore-estate houseboy whose boss (Mrs. Carroll) has just inconveniently died. Along for the ride with Rick is aging chanteuse Madeleine Cosquer (as in Marlene Dietrich), whom Rick is nursing through decline. While Rick and Dave and the sexually promiscuous estate gardenner watch each other's lustful eyeings and pair off for frenetic meldings (""He was riding deep into my throat. . . . We fed like animals, furiously""), the caper plods along: to confound Mrs. C.'s crude children (whom she hated), all must keep her death a secret (she's been buried on the estate), Madeleine must impersonate her, wills must be fabricated or hidden, lawyers must be conned, etc. Unfortunately, everyone has got his eyes so dreamily fixed on someone's groin or heartstrings that the requisite caper pace is totally absent--and all of Monette's considerable wry wit and elegant phrasing can't save his debut from terminal porn-puerility.