Picks and Pans Review: In a Dark Wood

updated 02/04/2002 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/2002 01:00AM

by Amanda Craig

Once upon a time in a place called London, there was an out-of-work actor named Benedick whose wife left him for a man of means. As Benedick drearily packed his things, he found a book of fairy tales written by his mother, Laura, an artist who killed herself when Benedick was 6.

So begins our hero's quest. The stories lead Benedick to his mother's birthplace in South Carolina, where he hopes to learn more.

In a sly blend of southern gothic and British wit, Craig weaves Benedick's neuroses with Laura's eerie fairy tales for a story that is both whimsical and unsettling. Her poetic, droll writing whisks the reader along towards a shocking denouement. (Nan A. Talese/Double-day, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Dark delight

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