cover image After Silence-P331074/3

After Silence-P331074/3

Jonathan Carroll. Doubleday Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-41974-1

An electrifying, unforgettable novel that unfolds with the logic of a Greek tragedy, Carroll's parable on moral cowardice starts out as a quirky romance in laid-back southern California but gradually descends into nightmare. Max Fischer, a Los Angeles cartoonist, is a bachelor when he moves in with eccentric, opinionated Lily Aaron, a restaurant manager, and her precocious 10-year-old son, Lincoln. Sensing that Lily is hiding something, Max hires a detective and does some snooping of his own. He discovers, to his horror, that Lily's ex-husband is nonexistent, a fabrication, and worse, that Lily--whom he deeply loves--is a kidnapper, having stolen Lincoln as an infant. When Lily eventually confesses to her crime, which she committed as a college dropout fleeing drugs and an abusive boyfriend, Max decides to marry her anyway and create a stable family. But seven years later, when Lincoln, now a sullen, crack-addicted adolescent, discovers Lily's crime and the reputed identity of his real parents--tragic events unwind with terrifying inevitability. Carroll ( Outside the Dog Museum ) writes with uncompromising honesty about how secrets gnaw and kill. (Apr.)