May 30, 1994 12:00 PM

by Sally Beauman

This big fat beach book by the British author of the best-selling Destiny (1987) gets off to a promising start. Gini Hunter, a young London-based reporter, receives a mysterious parcel containing a pair of handcuffs and a woman’s long black glove. Her former lover, Pascal Lamartine, a photographer based in Paris, receives a similar anonymous delivery. An unidentified glamorpuss, swathed in sable, ships two more identical packages to addresses in Venice and New York City. So, who’s the babe and what’s with the kinky cargo?

While Hunter and Lamartine investigate, and other characters—including the decadent, possibly sadistic John Hawthorne, American ambassador to Great Britain, and his chic, socially impeccable wife, Lise—are introduced, the reader is left with a more immediate question: Will there be a satisfactory resolution after 582 pages of farfetched plot twists?

Well, yes—if you’re a sucker for glitzy, romantic suspense novels that sprint along without much regard for either prose or plausibility. In Lovers and Liars, Beauman manages to out-Krantz Judith in the lifestyles of the rich and famous department. Her women are not just well dressed, they’re dripping in Chanel: her locations are the stuff of tony travelogues. As for characters, Beauman’s are as one-dimensional as cardboard cutouts—either elegant and beautiful or evil and dastardly.

To Beauman’s credit, she does make an all-out effort to avoid the pat ending. Plotting at an enviable pace, she creates just enough mystery to keep readers guessing who-dunwhat. And since Lovers and Liars explores the theme of moral ambiguity, Beauman emerges as a more complex writer than Krantz, who, after all, named her most recent book simply Lovers. (Fawcett Columbine, $22.95)

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