The Leopard's Wife

Paul Pickering, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (308p) ISBN 978-1-4391-6853-0

London Times columnist Pickering (Wild About Harry ) sets his lackluster fifth novel amid the Congo civil war. British pianist Stanley “Smiles” Miles-Harcourt arrives in the region expecting to play in a “Peace and Reconciliation Concert” alongside his estranged mentor, Lyman Andrew. After the rehearsal space is bombed, Smiles, his piano, and a cadre of sympathetic locals embark on a life-threatening journey through the jungle in hopes of finding Lyman and reaching a safe place to broadcast a performance. Pickering's premise—that “[t]he broadcast may just stop the fighting”—is as naïve and far-fetched as it sounds. Among Smiles's guides is the 17-year-old Lola, former lover of Major General Xavier and his upstart brother, Fortuné, who has access to a crucial transmitter. Lola falls in love with Smiles, too, and their affair inspires some of novel's most insipid passages. Meanwhile, Smiles's letters to his psychiatrist, reproduced throughout, fill in the pianist's sordid history, and though his gratuitously violent backstory unfolds with better logic and organization than the Congo adventure, the narrative reads more like a series of awkwardly recounted horrors than a fully formed novel. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/22/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-84737-828-6
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-6855-4
Hardcover - 309 pages - 978-1-84737-827-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-6854-7
Paperback - 309 pages - 978-1-84983-016-4
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