Picks and Pans Review: Among the Dead

updated 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Michael Tolkin

Frank Gale is planning to tell his wife about the affair he has been having so that after the initial hurt they can begin to rebuild their marriage. The Los Angeles businessman plans to do this in a carefully crafted letter he will give Anna just after the start of an Acapulco vacation with their 3-year-old daughter, Madeline. But things don't go as planned.

Frank lingers too long over a farewell lunch with his mistress. When he calls the airport to tell Anna to leave without him, he finds she has accidentally discovered the letter. While he waits for the next flight, he discovers something infinitely worse: Anna and Madeline's plane has exploded over San Diego, killing all on board.

Such is the promising premise of the second novel by Tolkin, author of the Hollywood black comedy The Player (and the screenplay for the subsequent hit movie). This time the darkness overshadows the laughs as the ever analytic Frank starts to sort through the wreckage of his life. Initially it's interesting to follow Frank's mental gymnastics, which become increasingly obsessive. But he quickly wears out his welcome. After a while, traveling over this bleak terrain with him begins to feel like being trapped on an interminable flight listening to a seatmate from hell. (Morrow, $20)

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