Once again, from the author of The Liar (1993), plenty of penetration and unabashed chauvinism. It's a bad sign when a story begins with a warning from the narrator about its 94,536 words: ``I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn.'' Fry seems as self-satisfied as his main character. Ted, a bitter old poet, is having a drink at a local pub and checking out the women (``all of whom I wanted to take upstairs and spear more or less fiercely''), when he runs into one of his two godchildren. Jane, a lovely 25-year-old with whom he lost contact when he and her mother had a falling out years ago, has leukemia and only three months to live. But Jane believes she's cured--cured, in fact, by Ted's other godchild, a 15-year-old named David. Jane offers Ted one million dollars to spend time at Swafford Hall, the home of David's family, ostensibly to write a biography of David's father, Michael, but really to discover the healer's secret and share it with the world. Ted, always the skeptic, takes the offer on a lark (and because he needs the money). He finds David to be an extremely sensitive and proud boy who claims that his great-grandfather had curative powers. This, and the coincidental placement of his hand on his little brother's chest just as he came out of a moment of respiratory distress, convinces David that he can remedy everything from cancer to homeliness. The claim also provides the perfect outlet for David's sexual urges when he decides that to truly treat a person he must get inside that person. He deposits his medicative seed in everyone from cousin Jane to angina-suffering friend Oliver and an ill horse. Good satire is thoughtful, but this is too obviously constructed to shock and offend.