cover image Flying Dutch

Flying Dutch

Tom Holt. St. Martin's Press, $18.95 (252pp) ISBN 978-0-312-06975-9

Alive for more than 450 years, doomed to ply the seas endlessly (except for shore leave), Capt. Cornelius Vanderdecker is the Flying Dutchman immortalized in legend and Wagner's opera. In a sophisticated fantasy that is occasionally hilarious but sometimes as creaky as the Dutchman's wood ship, levelheaded London accountant Jane Doland discovers some anomalies in an old ledger and sets out to find beer-swilling Vanderdecker to prevent him from cashing in on a life insurance policy that would bankrupt all of Europe. Meanwhile the captain, cursed with an unpleasant odor, seeks the Ultimate Deodorant from megalomaniac alchemist/inventor Professor Montalban, who invented the computer in 1694. Holt ( The Walled Orchard ) peppers these antics doings with jokes about accountants, history, death, taxes and the general rottenness of existence. His diverting story provides numerous compelling reasons why one would not want to live for centuries. (Mar.)