By no means as punchy in tone as Jolly Rogerson (1967), also a good if disregarded book, this second novel deals with the death of a child--Emily Dickinson's ""We waited while she passed; It was a narrow time."" Beginning with a reprise by its central character, Mortimer Ballinger, inveterate liar, killer, would-be suicide, it is hard to say at first just where fact steps aside and illusion sets in. Before long the catchy theatricality is abandoned and Mort walks softly through the preceding period, cribbed by the guilt-ridden and responsibility-laden experience in which both he and Clarissa level with themselves but not each other, permitting the death to further estrange them in the deadlock which had previously ensued--Mort a soap salesman unwilling to go back to Minneapolis and her family, Clarissa trapped in a suburban non-existence, ignoring the possibility that there is something really wrong with their child as well. . . . Mr. McInerny is a strong writer and there are tenebrous, occasionally funny, and sometimes redemptive moments in this attempt to reconcile the hollow suspension between life and death monitored by the entrenched tenets of Catholicism. The novel is certainly successful in that it encroaches on the reader's sympathy with unremitting intensity and it can stand up to the comparison it occasions with DeVries' Blood of the Lamb.