Tull ("born Toulouse," writes Wagner) is a wealthy L.A. boy searching for his long-lost father. What he finds instead is a bewitching orphaned girl, and soon he's convinced that the mystery of his father can be solved in the girl's Olivia Twist world of gutters and squats.
Screenwriter-novelist Wagner's competing mythologies of millennial California mesh with the precision of gold-plated gears in a luxury timepiece. Up-to-the-minute cultural allusions—including mentions of A Beautiful Mind and anthrax paranoia—complement a vision that is rich with comic plot threads and a brash authorial voice but also tinged with melancholy. At its core this is a sincere exploration of life, death and immortality. (Villard, $25.95)