cover image Look at It This Way

Look at It This Way

Justin Cartwright. Random House (NY), $21 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40866-6

Cynicism worthy of author Martin Amis and convoluted plotting reminiscent of TV's Fawlty Towers blend in this darkly comic yarn. Narrator Tim Curtiz, an American expatriate, writes a hip, caustic column about London for a New York magazine. One of his contacts is ``Simba'' Cochrane, who became a minor celebrity during the 1930s after killing a berserk lion with his pen-knife. Tim becomes obsessed with the lion-as-symbol, which he sees echoed in Britain's unicorn-and-lion, a London Zoo scheme to euthanize African lions, an elderly lion's escape from captivity and urban lion-sightings. Meanwhile, Tim acts as spokesman for the ``American Eagle'' credit card, and supplements his own story with views of other Londoners' lives--although everything, no matter how far-ranging, slyly reconnects with his lion fixation. British author Cartwright ( Interior ) pours on the witty metaphors, offers barbed remarks on England's class system and immigrant population and entangles subplots (one character, for instance, goes from a sleazy investment-banking career to a sleazy Thai kick-boxing scam). Droll, verbose and unmistakably British in approach, this novel will be familiar yet delightful fare for fans of BBC-style situation comedy. (July)