cover image Dragonfly


John Farris. Forge, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85949-7

Farris's (Sacrifice) latest novel is a real Southern gothic melodrama--with all the requisite over-the-top set pieces and labyrinthine plot twists--that grabs readers instantly. A swank society wedding is halted because the groom has left his millionaire fiancee on the lawn of her Omaha, Neb., manse. He is Joe Bryce (ne Mazcarek, or maybe Smith), a con man of the highest and smoothest order who's made his fortune preying on wealthy, marriageable ladies--made enough, in fact, to live in the Caribbean in the off-swindling season aboard his yacht, Dragonfly. But Joe meets his match in Nimrod's Chapel, Ga., where he contrives an introduction to bestselling romance writer Pamela Abelard. Paralyzed after a hit-and-run accident, the wheelchair-bound Abby is tended by her uncle, Dr. Luke, whose unctuous facade conceals unhealthy secrets. Also on hand are Luke's wife, Charlene, a substance abuser whose finest moment comes when, ``naked as a peeled egg,'' she scrapes $300-a-roll wallpaper off the parlor walls. Among the many richly realized supporting players is a killer who in his downtime paints scenes of Christ. Never letting up on the suspense, Farris piles one Grand Guignol moment on top of another with unerring dexterity, a keen knowledge of human nature and a wicked sense of humor. Literary Guild alternate. (Oct.)