By People Staff
January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

by Ian McEwan

This latest work from Ian McEwan (Black Dogs, Enduring Love), for which he recently won Britain’s top fiction award, the Booker Prize, is a wickedly deft animation of the old saw “Be careful what you wish for; it may come true.”

The humiliating mental breakdown and eventual death of former lover Molly Lane is enough to shock popular composer Clive Linley and his friend Vernon Halliday, a newspaper editor, into making a pact: Should either one deteriorate like Molly, the other would swiftly and painlessly end his suffering while dignity remained. But as McEwan cleverly shows, to die with dignity, one must have some to begin with—and it becomes clear soon enough that at least one of these egotistical wretches will meet his demise on the most preposterous of pretexts. Recounted at a tidy clip, McEwan’s stylishly entertaining farce is flawlessly executed. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $21)

Bottom Line: Divinely absurd mortality tale