A tone of punchy malice governs White's literate black comedy about the meanness and emptiness lurking in the stultified heart of exurban England. The country village of Middlehempston is in trouble: 19-year-old Fergus Johnson, a burglar, addict and arsonist just released from prison-armed with a shotgun and a lethal attack dog stolen from a fairground-is coming to town. He's stalking Jemima Hardy-Brown, his former social worker whom he obsessively adores and whose recent marriage he considers a monstrous betrayal. Meanwhile, Jemima's husband, a crusading newspaper editor, is eager to expose the safety violations at Fingles Ponds, the nearby ``hotchpotch of zoo, fairground, park and shops'' run by ruthless millionaire Zak Oliphant. And Zak's materialistic wife commits a hit-and-run accident, mowing down single mother Sheralee Maggs, whose son's hand was chewed off by the attack dog. Hippie squatters take over Sheralee's flat while she's hospitalized and attempt to involve her sluttish sister in a plot to incriminate exploitive Oliphant. White (The Plague Stone) wields a wickedly sardonic pen, writing with an inspired bile worthy of Roald Dahl as she drives her giddily awful tale to a climax that simmers with the class tensions that pervade the story. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996 Release date: 01/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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