cover image Pursued by the Crooked Man

Pursued by the Crooked Man

Susan Trott. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.95 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015853-8

The author of The Housewife and the Assassin again reveals an indomitable spirit in a hunted, housebound woman. Maximiliana Bartha, the quirky protagonist of this tragicomic novel, believes that her estranged husband, an underworld figure, is stalking her. She is firmly convinced as well that Mother Goose has appeared to her, and she channels Mother Goose's ""true'' intentions through a series of interpretive essays on the legendary nursery rhymes. Her metamorphosis from a gorgeous but shallow and frightened woman to a disfigured, fearless heroine is ripe with worthy, affecting morals and implications on betrayalboth physical (the body) and emotional (the perfidy of friends and lovers), and on the fragility but essential triviality of the corporeal. Trott's sketchy characterization and contrived plotting (``And she saw now that her frivolous life had become profound, and as a result, she had a remarkable sense of herself'') render the work implausibleand not unlike the folk and fairy tales that capture her protagonist's imagination. Readers will also have to endure inane scatological humor and a Mother Goose exegesis that even Max admits is ``idiotic.'' (January)