Picks and Pans Review: London Fields

updated 03/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Martin Amis

It didn't seem possible for Amis to have matched the bilious brilliance of his last novel, Money, but he has. The perfervid prose of London Fields presents an incredibly shabby picture of modern life, one marked by exploitation, deterioration and base appetites. At the novel's center is a beautiful disturbed woman, a sexual despot with all sorts of weapons.

This temptress, Nicola Six, uses all her wiles to seduce two blokes she meets in a pub, the grubby, darts-playing Keith and the ineffectual, effete Guy, in order to provoke one of them to kill her. Bizarre concept, but Amis, the son of author Kingsley Amis, turns it into a deceptively complex novel. As in Nabokov's Pale Fire, we are in the hands of a singularly unreliable but entertaining narrator who tells much more than he knows. There are only two false notes in London Fields. The first is that the daft and dying narrator is supposed to be American, but his cadences and language won't convince readers here. The second is that geopolitical and ecological concerns keep intruding, but these seem more likely to belong to Amis than to his self-absorbed characters. It's hard to quibble once you're caught up in the dark humor and compelling energy of Amis's tale. (Harmony, $19.95)

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