Murther and Walking Spirits

Robertson Davies, Author Viking $21.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-670-84189-9
The unexpected conceit devised by the author of the Deptford trilogy will surprise but likely not disappoint his fans. Shortly into the first chapter, narrator Connor Gilmartin, entertainment editor for a Canadian newspaper, is killed by his wife's lover, the paper's unctuous film critic, after coming upon the pair in his marital bed. Gil is astonished to find himself invisibly present at the scene, observing the craven retreat of the critic and his wife's subsequent tale to the police about her husband's fight with a burglar. Gil's next shock is learning that his fate is now tied to his murderer's and requires his joining the critic at an archival film festival. The films Gil sees, however, depict his personal history, powerfully presenting the lives of many of his ancestors. Notable among them are Anna Gage from 18th-century New York City, who takes her three children up the Hudson River in a canoe to Canada after her husband, an English officer, is killed at Breed's Hill; and a story-telling Methodist preacher in Wales. Gil's growing admiration for these flawed, courageous people reminds him of conversations with a metaphysically inclined friend who once advised him, ``Feel before you think!'' Relating this murder story with his customary wit, Davies resolves it to the reader's satisfaction, but the real treat is in Gil's posthumous growth to compassion and understanding. ``We live and learn, yes,'' he observes. ``But we die and learn, too, it appears.'' 75,000 first printing. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991
Release date: 11/01/1991
Hardcover - 462 pages - 978-0-8161-5466-1
Paperback - 462 pages - 978-0-8161-5467-8
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-016884-6
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