The Habit of Widowhood: And Other Murderous Proclivities

Robert Barnard, Author Scribner Book Company $20.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-684-82648-6
Crime master Barnard is at his roguish best in the short form as he effortlessly shifts these 17 tales through emotional and narrative gears. The act of murder is viewed through the eyes of a dog; an overabundance of ""bliss"" leaves a slew of older husbands dead and a merry young widow blessed with multiple inheritances; a randy old soldier who returns from the war to offer comfort to wives and widows gets his during a genteel game of bowls. A lifelong liberal, Barnard takes a special delight in skewering the privileged classes, often by letting driven working women cut a savage swath through legions of dull old boys. Occasionally, Barnard gets a shade gothic: a man imagines the son he never had and pays a steep price for his newfound happiness; a shy, secluded young woman is bartered into a disastrous marriage. Only once does the author stumble, as a violent sexual relationship between two men segues into theft. The wealth of ideas and inventions here might well be hoarded by other authors for a series of novels, but Barnard has such profligate wit and imagination that he can afford to deliver this abundance in a single volume. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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