Defying common sense and delighting the senses, this soft-core erotic mystery by French writer Japrisot is being republished in English under a new title, to take advantage of the popularity of his A Very Long Engagement. Eight female narrators recount the escapades of a French prison escapee who calls himself Christophe, among other names (he has as many aliases as lovers), and who may be a vicious murderer-rapist or only a sweet-talking, lusty rake who's so seductive no woman can resist him. Emma opens the book describing how ""Vincent"" kidnaps her on her wedding night, hijacking her new husband's van. Bound, gagged and petrified, Emma eventually becomes captivated by her captor, and desperate to run away with him. A widowed schoolteacher, a prostitute, a Japanese art student, an American psychologist, a battlefield nurse, a movie star and a Parisian lawyer all fall for Christophe's manipulative charm, playing out their sexual fantasies with him while he remains shameless and sincere, adoring and cruel. Satirizing and teasing at the same time, screenwriter-director Japrisot skewers his own profession in the story of Frou-Frou, an Oscar-winning actress featured in such hits as Legs and Lips. From Hollywood to Burma, a Javert-like accuser pursues the peripatetic hero, who is himself obsessed with memories of the grandmother who bestowed upon him a mysterious inheritance. By the time Christophe comes to trial, he has been guilty of almost everything except the crime for which he was imprisoned. The colorful characters giving evidence in court are by turns duped, nostalgic, proud and ashamed, providing bits of information needed to make sense of the complicated hero's life. The ending--part poetic justice and part French cinematic technique at its most coyly frustrating--does not detract from this spirited polyvocal tale celebrating the ambiguities between love and passion, and between morality and sin. (Apr.) FYI: Crown originally issued this book in 1986, under the title The Passion of Women.