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This is a very brief encore for George Thomassy, the criminal lawyer who appeared in The Magician--Mr. Stein's earlier novel of a suburban American tragedy which he developed with more conscience and conviction. In a bullet shell, this scenario concerns childkeeper and upstanding banker, Roger Maxwell, who with his promotion to Senior Vice President buys a large Tudor mansion for his family--three of his four children are still at home. All within a day or two, son Jeb, sixteen, gets involved with a black boy of nineteen called El Greco, and after stringing up a squirrel, they're into skinny dipping and drunken dunking, buying and selling junk--El Greco has kilos stashed in the cellar. He also attacks Roger with a switchblade and Roger accidentally kills the offender with a flashlight. Less accidentally and more stupidly, he delays calling the police; unfortunately his older boy at college is simultaneously involved in another criminal action; and finally by the time Thomassy arrives, a third episode is unavoidable. Too much, too soon, too little--except as a reverberation of ugly incidents everywhere and a reminder of parental absenteeism--bringing up children we don't understand while underestimating our own cowardice.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich