cover image Obit


Daniel Paisner. Dutton Books, $18.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24920-7

Axel Pimlitz, age 37, works for the Boston Record-Transcript in this first novel by Paisner ( Heartlands: An American Odyssey ). Other reporters move on to the news desk, but Axel, who calls adult fantasy phone lines a few times each day and masturbates in a graveyard when he's feeling particularly down, has been writing obits for 15 years. The apparent suicide of Andy Vaughn, a Boston University student, followed by the murder of a high school athlete, marks the beginning of a tortuous path out of self-absorption for Axel, who is the first to learn the victims' fathers had served together in Vietnam. Axel, who occasionally escapes to a reservoir deep under Boston proper, forms an attachment to Andy's mother, Margo, while a Boston cop discovers that both victims had had sex with the same young woman just hours before their deaths. Despite his overburdened plot--which includes an outrageous red herring and telegraphed conclusion--Paisner's breezy writing style and frequently sharp characterizations make him a promising entrant in the genre. (Dec.)