cover image Summer's Lease

Summer's Lease

John Clifford Mortimer. Viking Books, $19.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81984-3

Waughesque without the malice but no less clear-eyed for its good humor, Mortimer's comic vision extends beyond the English settings of Rumpole and Paradise Postponed to a Tuscany domesticated into a backdrop for British holiday-makers and other escapees. Bossily capable Molly Pargeter, indulging her abiding passion for Italian Renaissance art, carts her reluctant familystuffy solicitor husband, Hugh, and three daughters ranging from teenager to toddlerto the villa La Felicita, which belongs to a mysteriously authoritarian absentee landlord and art lover, S. Kettering. Molly's resplendently outrageous father, aging roue and Fleet Street hack Haverford Downs, inveigles his way into joining and then roguishly discomfits the Pargeters, furnishing the novel with one of Mortimer's most bravura performances. Molly's other passion, amateur sleuthing, leads her in quest of the elusive landlord, after a murder and Haverford's rediscovery of an old flame, who now presides over a magnificent palazzo. Although the momentum falters slightly midway, Mortimer's seemingly effortless command of his craft makes this combination of well plotted mystery and lightly barbed comedy a compelling pleasure. 35,000 first printing; $35,000 ad/promo; first serial to House & Garden; BOMC alternate. (July)