Although this tale of a man's investigation into the truth of his family history is written with much shrewd wit and a sensitive eye for the nuances of human failure, it delivers too little, too late. The main thread of the story is promising. Damien March, an American-born BBC journalist, inherits a house from an eccentric novelist uncle in the States. He soon scraps his job and goes to live on his uncle's dilapidated estate on an island off the coast of Cape Cod. Shortly after he moves there, numerous seemingly disconnected events occur. He meets a deaf neighbor and her two children. He is robbed. One of his uncle's eccentric ex-girlfriends comes poking about the estate. Then Damien lays his hands on a box of his uncle's manuscripts. Included in the box is the start of a whimsical mystery to be solved by Sherlock Holmes's wiser older brother, Mycroft. Not so whimsically, this mystery, with its close resemblance in plot and cast to the actual history and population of the island, suggests that Damien's uncle may have killed his deaf neighbor's brutish drunkard husband many years ago. This catalogue of a complex character's past is intriguing, and Theroux's prose is by turns lyrical and elegant, but the buildup to the discovery of the pivotal manuscript is long-drawn-out and tedious. This second novel by Theroux stands as a pleasant but unremarkable follow-up to A Stranger in the Earth, mildly frustrating, mildly entertaining and generally innocuous. (Mar.) Forecast: An East Coast author tour should draw audiences curious about Theroux as a writer in his own right, but also as a literary scion. And if media pick up on the tantalizing parallels with Theroux family history Paul Theroux, Marcel's father, also owns a house on Cape Cod the roman clef factor may spark sales.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001 Release date: 03/01/2001 Genre: Fiction