March 17, 1997 12:00 PM

by Robert McCrum

Page-Turner of the Week

JULIAN WHYTE’S BROTHER RAYMOND just might be the sibling from another planet. Julian, after all, is the caricature of fusty British bachelorhood, a contentedly insular barrister and county coroner in Sussex. His dashing big brother, on the other hand, has been living in East Berlin, married three times—and may have dabbled in espionage. But their worlds are destined to collide, with deadly consequences, in this deftly written tale of betrayal and guilt.

After the fall of the Wall, Raymond moves his family to Julian’s poky village. Bewitched by his brother’s mysterious Frau, Kristina, Julian begins a dangerous liaison. That is, until he starts to suspect that Kristina may be manipulating them both.

McCrum, author of five novels and literary editor of The Observer in London, maximizes the suspense as he slowly strips away the layers of lies in which the characters have cloaked themselves. Until the surprising endgame, you’ll be guessing who the real pawn is. (Norton, $23)

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