Picks and Pans Review: The Seduction of Water

updated 03/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Carol Goodman

Page-turner of the week

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The Irish legend of the selkie, a seal-woman who pines for her watery home, is at the center of this witty portrait of a striving writer that almost imperceptibly evolves into a gothic mystery romance. Manhattanite Iris Greenfeder, who grew up hearing tales of the selkie, moves to upstate New York to manage the hotel in which she lived as a child. There she gets involved with a former student, Aidan, and finds that her mother, a novelist who died in a mysterious fire, kept secrets that could endanger Iris's life.

Though the villain is a little too easy to peg, Seduction enchants with its fairy-tale motif and sensuous atmospherics. There's water, water everywhere, from the raindrops on Aidan's eyelashes to the eddying mists along the Hudson River. (Ballantine, $23.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Damp delight

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