Picks and Pans Review: Inheritance

updated 04/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Judith Michael

"Judith Michael" is actually two writers, Judith Barnard and Michael Fain, and it's easy to see why it would take a team to write a novel like this. It's not easy to go through a 607-page book and meticulously take out everything that might prove interesting. The husband-wife team, which wrote the best-selling romance novels Deceptions, Possessions and Private Affairs, in this case concocted a plot that blends the preposterous with the dull. The book begins when Laura Fairchild is 18 and in a family burglary business with her two brothers. They're on Cape Cod casing the estate of the wealthy, stodgy, too-dumb-even-for-Falcon-Crest Salinger family, which owns lots of hotels. To make a very long story not nearly short enough, Laura ends up with her own hotel chain by the time she's 24. Then she has to face scandals, crime, sexism and, of course, her undying passion for the sappy Paul, a Salinger nephew. The novel's dramatic high point comes when a country-rock singer, high on cocaine, begins barking like a dog at a fancy party. The Barnard-Fain writing style runs to repetition, drawn-out conversations and general tedium. At one point Laura laments, "I wasted so much time stealing and dreaming, and now I'm 21 and how will I ever have time to do everything I want to do." Occasionally a sex scene happens. Then, Judith and Michael begin reaching out for sensual adjectives and adverbs in a mad, dizzying, vertiginous, spinny swirl that makes the whole page a blinding blur of hidden emotions surging up, running from sentence to sentence with a dirgelike determination, oozing over stickily onto yet another page that attains even more infinite ineffability and burbles along to even more medium-level heights until—yes, yes, yes, it's time to talk about hotel-lobby decor again. The book is pointless enough to be made into a 19-part miniseries; reading it is like waiting for the first shoe to drop. (Poseidon, $18.95)

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