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Picks and Pans Review: River King

updated 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alice Hoffman

Tall, gangly Gus Pierce, a misfit at Massachusetts's tony Haddan School, is found drowned, and most students assume that Pierce's housemates' vicious hazing drove him to suicide. The coroner determines otherwise, and a burned-out cop sets out to find the truth. In her 13th novel, Hoffman (Here on Earth, Practical Magic) once again demonstrates her compassion for the world's walking wounded along with a penchant for the supernatural. At her bidding, animals and even the weather behave perversely: A cold black rain filled with algae pours down on Haddan, and Carlin, Gus's only friend, starts wrapping herself in his old coat, only to find silvery minnows swimming in the pockets. Hoffman's magic realism fits well in this setting—after all, the tale unfolds in the same state that hosted witchcraft trials way back when. (Putnam, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Flows mightily

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