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Futures broker Ellerslie Penrose, the narrator of New Zealand author Taylor's noir thriller (the first of his novels to achieve U.S. publication) has been living alone in his office in downtown Auckland, dealing with his clients over the phone and getting little sleep. Other than seeing Wilhelmina, a waitress at the Regent Hotel with whom he occasionally has sex, Penrose spends all his time working. One day, cutting down an alley, he runs into several policemen gathered around a glass recycling bin. Penrose finds a wallet in the gutter and shows it to a cop. Mistaking his gesture, the cop waves Penrose through. That is all it takes to involve him in the murder of Tad Ash, whose smashed body is in the bin. Penrose keeps the wallet and begins his own investigation. When he calls on Dede, Tad's twin brother and now the sole proprietor of an antique shop the twins ran, Penrose is told a strange story. Tad owned a valuable Victorian phenakistiscope, an instrument resembling a stereoscope that produces moving images. A diary written on its rotating cardboard disks tells the story of a 19th-century adolescent named Palmer. In 1875, in a moment of terrible crisis, he "leapt" out of time and space, an action that enrolled him in a slower temporal dimension and retarded his aging process. More research leads Penrose to a downtown brothel, where he meets Miranda Sunde, the woman who sold Tad the disks; she was Palmer's mistress. Despite all the evidence he gathers, Penrose is loath to believe in Palmer's miraculous leap until a tragedy occurs. Taylor's surreal plot never quite achieves plausibility, but his clever atmospherics and an assured command of language keep the reader intrigued. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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