Julia Hamilton, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-30504-8

Like her first novel, Other People's Rules, Hamilton's sophomore effort exposes the perverse private lives of a seemingly wholesome, elite Edinburgh family. Patriarch Jack Macarthur is on his deathbed when a nosy reporter threatens to reveal family secrets. Jack has been supporting a mistress and illegitimate daughter for 16 years. His older son, Duncan, a golden boy who helps him run his publishing company, habitually makes the rounds of the gay club circuit, even though he's supposed to be settled down with his devoted partner, Charles. Jack's nephew Luke has a predilection for s&m. The crisis forces the younger son, Ben, to replace his father as head of the family. Ben is divorced, unable to settle down with girlfriend Marianne and changes careers more often than he changes his socks. Yet with the family's dirty laundry about to be put on display, Ben is the Macarthurs' best chance for salvaging their dignity. With no chapter breaks, too many back stories about irrelevant branches of the family and no dominating point of view, the novel is fragmented. The women in the book are particularly two-dimensional (the submissive mistress; the stuffy, repressed matriarch; etc.), and Hamilton tends to rely on pat descriptions ("Duncan was... a financial whiz kid, and the apple of their father's eye"). As long as readers don't expect too much subtlety, they may find the family's dramatic saga, full of random acts of violence and tragedy, to be luridly absorbing. (Nov. 14)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4668-4399-8
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