cover image Kissing the Beehive

Kissing the Beehive

Jonathan Carroll. Nan A. Talese, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48011-6

Sex, death and the high price of fame are the main ingredients in this fast-paced but ultimately disappointing novel from Carroll (Outside the Dog Museum). Sam Bayer is in trouble. His third marriage is dead, his new novel is hopelessly stalled and he's fallen under the spell of an ardent fan, a mysterious blonde named Veronica Lake. But instead of hunkering down and getting on with his life (not to mention that novel), Sam makes an impulsive visit to Crane's View, the small Hudson River town where he grew up and where, at the age of 15, he discovered the body of Pauline Ostrova, the ""high honor roll/slut goddess"" of his youth. Who killed her? The boyfriend who went to prison? The local mob boss? Naturally, Sam wants to reinvestigate and write a nonfiction book on the case. With the aid of an old high-school buddy who's now the local police chief, his wise daughter (""16 years old going on 30""), her Internet-whiz boyfriend and a truly eerie Veronica Lake (she's straight out of Fatal Attraction), Sam sets off, criss-crossing the country in his quest for the truth. Carroll is a fine writer and he expertly keeps the ball in play here. Unfortunately, the heart of the novel, the twin obsessions--Sam's for the dead Pauline, Veronica's for Sam--never quite cohere. Indeed, the Pauline and Veronica plot lines battle awkwardly for the reader's attention, and both lose a considerable amount of steam before the novel reaches its rushed and haphazard conclusion. Author tour. (Jan.)