BACK FROM THE DEAD

Chris Petit, Author BACK FROM THE DEAD Chris Peti $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-679-45127-3
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Following the success of his first novel, 1997's The Psalm Killer, Petit falters badly, offering up a dreary, uneventful tale about the haunting effects of an old murder. Populated by sullen, unlikable characters, the story hangs on a promising if familiar premise: a fading, insufferably rich rock star known only as McMahon has received a string of letters signed by a woman, Leah, whose death he apparently witnessed 15 years earlier in France. Understandably distressed, McMahon privately hires Youselli, a New York City police detective, to find out who is behind the letters and why. Youselli, a burn-out case recently separated bitterly from his wife, notes that each letter—they come once a week—is increasingly threatening in tone. While interviewing many of those close to McMahon, Youselli determines there was more to Leah's death than his client lets on. Can she, in fact, still be alive? Given that tantalizing question, Youselli plows ahead, questioning McMahon's adulterous, conniving wife, Angelica; Paolo, the insolent, drug-dealing son of one of McMahon's former band members; McMahon's former manager, a sadistic homosexual named Aaron; and Blackledge, a creepy filmmaker in McMahon's entourage. Assisting Youselli on the case is a lonely psychiatrist, Edith Weber, who provides interpretation of the letters. The plot develops slowly and tediously and none of the characters are easy to root for, not even Youselli, whose self-pity and destructive personal habits inspire only indifference. The ending is both depressing and unsatisfying. Petit, however, shows flashes of true skill: his characterizations, while relentlessly dark and unsavory, can captivate, and his dialogue has a clipped quality that's intriguing to follow. But that's meager consolation for a story that is, in the end, a test of endurance. (Mar. 30)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4472-1025-2
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