cover image Nine Wives

Nine Wives

Dan Elish, . . St. Martin's/Griffin, $12.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33943-2

Endearingly neurotic, 32-year-old Jewish composer Henry Mann fantasizes about marriage with virtually every attractive, single woman he meets after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sheila. In the midst of his ongoing slump, Henry may have hit the jackpot with sexy Tamar Brookman when the two reconnect after a hot blind date, especially when Brookman later supports Henry in his ongoing effort to write a musical based on The Great Gatsby . Henry's other potential prospect is Christine, a pretty school teacher who first fails to set off sparks, but who starts to look like a catch after Tamar's trail of ex-boyfriends leads to jealousy and a schism. Elish's debut is noticeably short on plot, but he displays a nice feel for the ups and downs of New York single life and produces a solid, albeit stereotyped, roster of support players. Other small flaws abound: most of Henry's romantic moves are predictable, and some of the scenes in which he fantasizes about his would-be wives are painfully silly and mawkish. Elish shows potential in this likable first novel, but if this book were a blind date, Henry would barely get to first base, and he'll need a stronger follow-up effort to win over his potential audience. (Aug.)