December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

by Edward Docx


Jasper Jackson is a young London calligrapher with a connoisseur’s eye for food, art and women. He keeps his kitchen stocked with secret stashes of breakfast foods so he can impress his next conquest by “just happening to have” whatever she desires for a morning-after meal. It’s a lifestyle that serves him well until his steady girlfriend Lucy finds out what he’s been up to and flees the scene, heartbroken.

Jasper feels vaguely guilty, but his attack of conscience is cut short by the appearance of Madeleine—beautiful, intelligent and just outside his grasp. Madeleine has secrets of her own, and Jasper is about to learn the meaning of the word “payback.”

This debut novel is sharp and wryly funny, and while there is a certain satisfaction in watching Jasper suffer, we can’t help rooting for him as he fumbles through his first encounter with love. Throughout, he relates his plight to the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne, which he is transcribing in calligraphy. It’s a clever device that lends depth to the novel and to the character, transforming a womanizing snob into someone almost lovable.

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