cover image The Drowning People

The Drowning People

Richard Mason. Warner Adult, $24.98 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57042-691-9

This precocious debut novel by Mason, an undergrad at Oxford University, opens on a catchy note: a man confessing to the murder of his wife. As the basis for a spoken audio, this provides a creepy and convincing structure. Jarvis, a British actor with a distinguished career as an audio narrator, capitalizes spiritedly on the moody conceit. The story unfolds into a larger tale of a life lived among elite English society. James Farrell, an Oxfordian violinist, relates his story of passion and murder in stylized tones, rising to gothic flourish when the events get especially hot and heavy. He tells how, at age 22, he fell for the beautiful stranger Ella Harcourt. This was the unrequited love that would eventually destroy him--leading him to marry, then murder, her sister. Now, as an old man, he casts a coldly objective eye on the path that delivered him to his terrible destiny. Posing as high literature, this slyly low, hothouse novel of morals, manners and murder plays especially wicked and fun when read aloud. Based on the 1999 Warner hardcover. (June)