Michael Dibdin. Pantheon Books, $20 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42098-6
A middle-aged British journalist based in Seattle tracks down his deceased wife's first husband in this novel of nostalgia and obsession, a departure for Dibdin, author of the popular Aurelio Zen mystery series. After the death of his American wife, Lucy, in a plane crash, Anthony travels to Nevada to visit Darryl Bob, Lucy's creepy and reclusive former husband, who lives in a trailer filled with porn photos of Lucy and audiotapes of her adulterous trysts. Shortly after Anthony leaves Darryl Bob's trailer, Darryl Bob is found dead. Although Anthony is blameless, he is a suspect because his handgun is found in the trailer--but only because Darryl Bob bought it when Anthony began to brandish it in agitation at Darryl Bob's sarcasm. Gradually, Anthony shakes himself loose of the murder charge. Retreating to his parents' vacation home in France, he works toward adjusting to the reality of his wife's death, despite imagined visits from her ghost. A touching flashback to his courtship of Lucy and transcriptions of his past conversations with her further fleshes out Dibdin's portrait of the couple. Snapping along persuasively as it skips back and forth in time, the novel perceptively questions the boundaries of intimacy and love, though it sometimes moves too smoothly for its own good. Although Anthony's path toward psychological repair is attentively chronicled, we never really become acquainted with his personality--he remains a cipher throughout. (Mar. 29) Forecast: Dibdin shifts easily to literary fiction with this capable offering, but his mysteries are livelier and arguably more substantial. Fans may go along for the ride, but they will surely clamor for the speedy return of Aurelio Zen.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001