cover image Rune


Christopher Fowler. Ballantine Books, $18.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-345-36473-9

Taut and well paced, acutely observed, written in refreshingly sophisticated prose, this tale of international deviltry and horror by the British author of Roofworld ultimately demands too much suspension of disbelief. When London adman Harry Buckingham's father is run over by a truck, witnesses say he appeared to be fleeing from an unseen assailant. In short order, the father's two partners in a video-copying firm also die in odd, seemingly suicidal ways; other inexplicable deaths follow. The victims are connected by one strange fact: all have come into contact with some ancient runic symbols. When Harry's teenage secretary also becomes a victim, he comes under the suspicion of two veteran detectives Ar thur Bryant and John May, who think Harry may have the key to the puzzling deaths. Meanwhile, in resisting a multinational communications corporation's demands to buy his father's company, Harry learns that an evil tycoon is using those old runes to discourage business rivals--with supernatural, deadly results. Although Fowler imbues his characters with colorful attributes and depth of personality, his premise of runic malevolence never convinces the reader of its potential horror. (Jan.)