An ambitious doctor book with a feverish but sluggish pulse--about a gynecologist who comes to realize that what's on his examination table isn't just meat: it's the ""holy secret"" of our life here on this earth, the whole sex business. Dr. Tom Haldane is a successful Kansas City surgeon (nothing so mundane for him as delivering babies) whose wife, the Radcliffe-educated Elizabeth, has gotten mixed up in a mÃ‰nage-a-trois that's liberally macerated in booze and drugs. It's just a quick hop, step, and jump to the divorce courts, messy custody fights, and alimony wranglings. Out on his own now, Dr. Tom finds himself looking at women most unprofessionally: a little explicit multiple naughtiness of his own and finally a real love affair. This is the sort of photo-realist performance in which you can get to feel what it's like to perform a hysterectomy, successfully shoot craps, make Chinese dumplings, shoot quail--but the meticulous research seems only its own reward; a sharply defined sense of modern Midwestern life is extracted, but that's about it. Rhodes (The Inland Ground, The Ungodly) throws in spanking-new references to contemporary books and politics, but the verisimilitude can't really cover his thin characterizations and determinist plotting. When the flavor isn't overwhelmed by overwriting (""exquisite multiplicate tellurics of touch"" and such), you'll get a taste of what Rhodes is after, but if you've got more in mind than nibbling, this book disappoints.