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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 06, 1995|ERIKA TAYLOR

DEATH BY PUBLICATION by J.J. Flechter. (An Arcade Mystery $19.95; 179 pp.) No one knows that Sir Edward Destry, a prominent English publisher, harbors an obsessive jealousy and hatred for his best-selling author, Nicholas Fabry. When Fabry wins the Goncourt Prize, France's most prestigious literary award, Destry decides he has to act. The scheme he employs to ruin Fabry is what makes up "Death by Publication," J.J. Flecther's original, but wholly unsatisfying mystery. Although the plot itself is interesting, Flechter writes almost entirely in expositional narrative with very few real scenes. This creates a sensation of being told an entire story without having a chance to care. Perhaps exceptional characters or dialogue would have compensated for the " . . . and then this happened, and then that happened" aspect of "Death By Publication," but most of the writing is extremely standard. ("Her long, flowing blond tresses framed a finely sculpted, alabaster face in which were set two enormous sapphire eyes.")

Buried in "Death By Publication" is the skeleton of a highly engaging, almost Shakesperean, fable of passion and revenge. Sadly though, that old cliche for writers, "Show, don't tell," has never been more true.

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