John McCabe, Author . Black Swan $13 (381p) ISBN 978-0-552-77090-3

Taking its title from a British euphemism for "managing people," this rather disjointed new lampoon by the author of Big Spender was originally published in 2003 in the U.K. to rave reviews. Unfortunately, the story is so heavily salted with Britishisms that most of what is perceived as high humor in England will very likely be lost to the American reading public. Tim Power, proprietor of the only advertising agency in Taunsley—a hidebound little city about two hour's train ride from London—is struggling to keep his business afloat in a setting in which 12 of his 17 clients insist on using "Simply the Best!" as their slogan. Since his fiancée, Zoe, is currently on a world tour with her girlfriend to put their commitment to "the ultimate test," his romantic life is not much better. To make matters worse, in a misguided effort to help him, Zoe refers Tim to her uncle, Barry Dinsdale, a time and motion expert, who advises him to take in a boarder while Zoe is gone. Factor in a bungling burglar hired to incriminate the rival of a local business executive, a phony ad campaign for a counterfeit product, an inept boozy reporter out to expose the criminal chicanery of the town's rival meat packers and the unexpected romance between Tim and his new boarder, a libidinous Ph.D. psychologist masquerading as an M.D. Progressing as haphazardly as an old Marx Brothers burlesque, Tim's life is just beginning to show promise of improving when things take a predictable turn for the worse. Regrettably, McCabe's quixotic hijinks don't quite translate into laughs for American readers. (Apr. 15)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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