Beauty Story

Luke Jennings, Author Random House (UK) $17.99 (297p) ISBN 978-0-09-180233-2
The conventions of gothic mystery add a frisson to this entertaining novel by British writer Jennings. Set in the rarefied world of media glamour, it features an appealing protagonist whose dilemma becomes obvious to the reader only gradually. Six months after young American actress Dale Cooney vanishes from the 16th-century English castle where she was filming an unusual commercial intended to launch a new fragrance, appropriately called Eternal Summer, the public is still captivated by her disappearance. Was there foul play? Was it perhaps a publicity stunt? Hotshot journalist Alison MacAteer was the last person to see Dale alive, and it's Alison's version of events we follow as the novel moves back in time. But Alison's past holds its own secrets. Is she really the kind of journalist others describe as ""destructive,"" ""vicious,"" ""nasty"" and ""poisonous""? Her methods may be questionable, but Jennings still manages to make Alison the book's most sympathetic character. As the story comes back full circle to the Arcadian castle, the reader learns that Dale's now-impending disappearance echoes that of an Elizabethan woman 400 years ago. The jumps from present to past heighten foreboding, and pithy observations, snappy dialogue and nicely nuanced characters flesh out the suspensefully labyrinthine plot, whose elegiac ending is entirely appropriate. (June) FYI: Jennings is a contributor to the New Yorker and London's Evening Standard.
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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