Picks and Pans Review: The Diamond Lane

updated 08/12/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/12/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Karen Karbo

When Mouse (née Frances) FitzHenry, a highly scrupulous documentary filmmaker, gets a frantic call from her feckless, bulimic younger sister, Mimi, to come to their ailing mother's bedside in Los Angeles, Mouse makes tracks out of Zaire, where she is on assignment.

Mimi could just be exaggerating. Still, the FitzHenrys' family history suggests otherwise. Consider the fate of the girls' father, Fitzy, who at 34 met his maker in a quite unconventional fashion: En route to the locksmith, he stopped in the middle of a crosswalk to pick up an earring—18 karat as it turned out—only to be run over by a two-ton dolly.

Now, 25 years later, as this hilarious story begins, Mimi and Mouse's mother, Shirl, has been beaned by a ceiling fan in a chic L.A. restaurant: "What were the odds of a father dying at the bottom of an on-ramp...a mother permanently brain damaged from getting bonked on the head with a ceiling fan....How come it never worked the other way around? How come you didn't win the lotto in the morning, meet the man of your dreams that night?"

To speed along Shirl's recovery, Mouse falsely announces her engagement to longtime collaborator Tony Cheatham, who has been wanting to tie the knot for years.

If only Mouse didn't have a horror of commitment, if only Tony hadn't written a screenplay documenting his and Mouse's relationship. If only Mouse hadn't gotten involved with her old flame, an Oscar-winning documentarian, whom Mimi had stolen—and married.

Karbo has written a smart, funny book about unresolved sibling rivalry, about marriage, but most particularly about the movie business. Though The Diamond Lane inns out of speed and credibility in its last pages, it holds quite firmly to its gleam most of the way. (Putnam, $21.95)

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