cover image Cast in Doubt

Cast in Doubt

Lynne Tillman. Poseidon Press, $19.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78814-8

Horace, a gay American crime novelist in his 60s who is given to drinking and depression, narrates this tale of his obsessive fascination with Helen, an enigmatic, sexually freewheeling 20-year-old who comes to teach English on Crete, where Horace presides over a motley band of expatriates. When she abruptly disappears, he sets off through southern Crete to find her. Does Helen, a psychiatrist's daughter, feel guilty about her sister's alleged suicide? Is she traveling under an assumed name? As Horace wrestles with these and other questions, this philosophical thriller, set in the years 1975-1980, bogs down in literary chitchat and digressions about Gertrude Stein, Andy Warhol, politics, Horace's dreams and his novels. The colorful cast includes a South African poet and anti-apartheid activist, a cranky English hermit, a former singer, Horace's surly young Greek boyfriend and Helen's spurned suitor, a failed suicide. Tillman ( Haunted Houses ) casts doubt on the basis of human cognition and our subjective knowledge of other people, but her focus on a rather stereotypical gay male sensibility diminishes this literate, diverting story. Author tour. (Sept.)