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Homo walleriensus goes south of the border in this slight, blandly self-important fable about the Man, the Woman, and the Prince of Darkness. You'd expect a best-selling novelist (Border Music, p. 27, etc.) to provide a little something for everyone, and he does. For the Waller faithful, there's the idyllic romance between laid-back journalist/novelist Danny Pastor, he of the simple tastes and the Ford Bronco named Vito, and Mar¡a de la Luz Santos, an indolently sensual creature with all the rocklike strength of her peasant upbringing. For the international intrigue set, there's the execution of a computer engineer and of a naval officer by a hired killer, a rogue veteran of Vietnam named Clayton Price. For devotees of good old-fashioned suspense, there's the question of what will become of Danny and Luz when a post-assassination Price battens on them in the sleepy town of Madero and hires them to drive him back to el None. For language mavens, there are Waller's trademark meditations on elemental truths, the killing business (""we've cheapened the idea of killing, so that it's everyman's intellectual game,"" contends inscrutably manly Price, who ""know[s] what killing means, and it's an untidy business""), and ""the great American sausage machine called publishing."" Finally, for readers who have never read a novel before, or who just like a good cry, there's the question of what will happen when Danny has to go into Mazatln looking for a water pump for Vito, and Luz starts to drift away from Danny, who loves too timidly, into all too familiar territory with Price, who may not be able to love at all. The author's quest for laconic, worldly understatement produces a kind of fluffy, homogeneous glaze in which everything--from the heartfelt motivations to the sincere backdrops--is lyrically immersed. Think of Hallmark on steroids, or the stuff they put inside Twinkies.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1995
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Warner