Picks and Pans Review: Five Hundred Scorpions

updated 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Shelby Hearon

In this imaginative, perceptive novel about the breakup of a marriage, a lawyer in Virginia decides that after more than 20 years, he has had enough. He leaves his wife and two sons to go to Tepotzlán, Mexico. There, a couple of female anthropologists he has never met are conducting a study, and he is promised that he can help. His wife is stunned, but takes comfort in their church and her friends. In Mexico the lawyer rooms with a Japanese man who is helping the anthropologists study how the village men, obsessed with cuckoldry, accomplish their infidelities. One of the anthropologists is a tall blonde, and the day he arrives the lawyer begins to try to seduce her. Back in Virginia the wife learns her husband was once involved in an incident in college that haunts several lives. Apparently there are 500 kinds of scorpion in Tepotzlán, and the insect figures in this novel's climax, which includes an earthquake, a hurricane and many revelations—some comic. Hearon, author of A Small Town and Group Therapy, has created a fictional Mexico as mysterious as the real place, a tropical paradise laced with craziness, poisonous water and people who worship with a priest but fear the ancient gods far more. (Atheneum, $18.95)

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