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Veronica, Nicholas Christopher, The Dial Press, 1996, ISBN 0-385-31471-X, $22.95, 319pp.

Nicholas Christopher’s Veronica will always be linked in my mind to the movie Rough Magic starring Bridget Fonda and Russell Crowe. There are many obvious similarities, such as magician’s assistants and the magic realist feel. But they will mainly be linked in my mind because I experienced them at the same time: I was in the middle of reading Veronica when I decided to take a break and see Rough Magic. This served to enhance the link that was already quite strong. (For what it is worth, I would be interested in reading Rough Magic’s source material, James Hadley Chase’s novel, Miss Shumway Waves a Wand.)

Leo, our hero, stumbles across the eponymous title character in New York City on a winter night. He quickly finds himself involved in an illusion of magicians, with blind Japanese courtesans, identical twins, and secret societies. He, of course, falls in love, but things are not so cut and dried as to be predictable.

Christopher is an accomplished poet, and Veronica is his second novel, the first from a major press. On a sentence by sentence level, I can hardly fault him, but he does not have as sure a hand when it comes to plotting. After a great start, the book bogs in the middle as the coincidences and conspiracies add up, and then it’s an all-out sprint to the grand climax. I liked it, but that’s because it punched several of my pleasure buttons. I would hesitate to recommend it to strangers without asking them about their literary preferences.

[Finished 16 September 1997]


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