cover image The Pearlkillers: Four Novellas

The Pearlkillers: Four Novellas

Rachel Ingalls. Simon & Schuster, $15.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-63340-0

Though the action is death-ridden and the landscape dour, in each of these four Gothic tales by the author of Mrs. Caliban, it is the chill voice of the narrator that quickens the pulse. In ""Third Time Lucky,'' Lily, whose first two husbands were killed in Vietnam, listlessly rejects all suitors, lavishing her energy on her passion for ancient Egypt. When Don persists in courting her and promises a honeymoon there, she masters her distaste and marries him, presaging another tragedy. The logic of murder is relentlessly upheld in ``People to People,'' as one man kills his four closest friends in order to escape detection for a murder the five had witlessly committed years before. Differing in mood yet maintaining the same distance, the title story deals in live ghosts, the aged, rich great-aunts of Carla, who listens helplessly to tales of their titled cousins, plunderers of the family treasure, and of ``pearlkillers,'' people whose deadly skin causes pearls to shrivel and turn brown. Finally, ``Captain Hendrik's Story'' unites all the forcesdoomed journey, women-laced household, deception and murderin Anders Hendrik's recounting of what happened during a voyage to the New World and the record as corrected by a man who was part of the crew. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these chilling tales is the doom that pervades them from the first sentence. (August 4)