cover image Lover Man

Lover Man

Dallas Murphy. Scribner Book Company, $14.95 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-684-18757-0

Clever, intriguing, shocking, touching and funny, this first novel from playwright Murphy inaugurates what should be an outstanding series. Murphy introduces Artie Deemer, a man whose only discernible hobby is an all-consuming passion for jazz, and whose income is supplied by his dog, Jellyroll, a canine famous across America as the ""spokesdog'' for a national brand of dogfood. Everything in Artie's life is great until two cops show up at his door and tell him his ex-girlfriend, Billie Burke, has been found murdered in her Manhattan apartment. When someone who turns out to be Billie's lesbian ex-lover shows up at Artie's door with a cryptic note in Billie's handwriting, Artie finds himself embroiled in a bewildering mystery that will keep readers turning pages at a breakneck pace. Murphy writes with clarity and power; the prison and morgue scenes are shockingly good. His characters are fascinating and uniqueno mystery buff should miss Deemer's friend Calabash, his unusual lawyer, nor any of the 20 or 30 characters who make this one of the year's best. (July 16)