Melodramatic fiction chockablock with Life's Big Questions--from first-time Irish novelist McDonnell. Peter Ferson has become distanced from his wife Margaret, and is casting about for a way around the institute of holy matrimony in which he no longer really cares to find himself. Peter and Margaret's unhappiness seems to proceed from the death of their son, combined with overexposure to a domestic grind--though McDonnell doesn't convincingly develop the kind of fevered despair required by what follows. Peter has taken up with a mistress, Barbara, who is only vaguely less unpleasant than Margaret herself, and who, true to the soap-opera convention, has been pressing hubby to divorce the old bag back home. No surprise when Margaret does her bit for the melodramatic genre, and, with maniacal glee, informs Peter that he'll never get a divorce out of her. In a fury Margaret flees the nest in a Fiat--but along the way is involved in a traffic accident that badly mashes Margaret's car and leaves her in a near-dead state. Initially hoping that Margaret will die, Peter quietly glowers remorselessly near the emergency ward. But, tenacious as always, Margaret clings on to life, and forces Peter to make a moral decision that in the end brands him as a murderer. Finally: thinly drawn characterization, prose heavily saturated with overt moral questions, wooden plotting--a foray into melodrama excess that may remind some of the oozing technicolor of Douglas Sirk in top form. All bases covered, in other words, except the string orchestra wailing in the background.