No New Orleans story is complete without murder, sex and family secrets, and Bradley (Tupelo Nights) amply supplies all three in this moody, sadly comic novel, his first in six years. Juliet Beauvais, 32, is the prodigal daughter of a waning aristocratic family whose patriarch, Juliet's father, died many years ago under mysterious circumstances. After a 15-year exile, she hears that her mother is moribund, and gleefully returns to Nawlins to collect her inheritance. Problem is, her mother isn't really sick at all: it was just a trick to get Juliet away from Los Angeles, where she'd been working in porn films. Disappointed and flat broke, Juliet is forced to confront (i.e., have sex with) the men from her past, including a bisexual sax player, a one-legged petty crook and a down-on-his-luck painter named Sonny LaMott, who's been obsessed with Juliet since they went steady in high school. Inevitably, LaMott still can't resist her. But Juliet proves to be less interested in LaMott than she is in claiming her birthright and uncovering the secret behind her father's death. Both eventually come to pass, though not in ways she expects--Juliet's ultimate fate is tragic but unsurprising, at least to anyone familiar with Blanche DuBois. In fact, the novel pays a self-conscious homage to Tennessee Williams, and if Bradley is unable to duplicate the playwright's masterful atmosphere, he still manages to muster some evocative observations. An affected kiss is ""the sort of half-felt gesture that college sorority girls, too sophisticated for handshakes, reward each other for just being wonderful."" At time the depravity seems to be piled a bit high--how much drug abuse, pedophilia and kinky sex is really necessary?--but for the most part, Bradley's seamy story is balanced by enough witty dialogue and lush scenery to make a wild, suspenseful and ultimately bittersweet read. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000 Release date: 08/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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