Bruce Clements, . . FSG, $16 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-374-37701-4

This picaresque work opens right where its predecessor, I Tell a Lie Every So Often (1974), left off. It's 1849, and Henry Desant (a literary descendant of Huck Finn) sets off from St. Louis for Paris, where his older brother, Clayton, has styled himself a preacher. Writing home, Clayton boasts that after a rocky start, his chapel is creating "A Righteous Reek in the nostrils of God." But for all Clayton's bombast, Henry can see that Clayton is being used to front a gang of thieves, and so begins his rescue mission. The hyperbolic plot—which involves a trip down the Mississippi on a steamboat, autopsies and amputations, riots in the Paris barricades and incendiary appearances by Victor Hugo—feeds gleefully off the author's dry wit. Narrator Henry, equal parts ingenuous and smart, disarmingly (but correctly) sizes up each new set of circumstances. Discussing the way men drink in Paris, for example, Henry observes, "They don't get drunk the same way they do in Saint Louis. They take their time at it. You can't go into a café... and come out staggering five minutes later." Some of the best lines are assigned the fictional Hugo, who tells Henry: "You [Americans] are killing the Red Indians. You must put up a monument to these noble people. That's what we would do if we killed them here." The offhand, almost subversive delivery makes the steady humor all the more pungent. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)