October 25, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Almost a Crime

Current Status
In Season
Penny Vincenzi
We gave it a B-

I snatched Penny Vincenzi’s new novel with unseemly haste: I loved her Spoils of Time trilogy, the saga of the wealthy, titled Lytton family, owners of a venerable British publishing house. The three dense, enormously complicated books followed family members through war, affairs, marriages, and near bankruptcy, and were seasoned with generous dollops of sex and fashion. But Almost a Crime disappoints, in large part because the main characters, Tom and Octavia Fleming, are so downright unlikable — an almost fatal flaw in a book like this. They’re a high-powered London couple: She runs a charity consultancy; he’s a famous public relations executive. They’re featured in magazines and regulars on the party circuit. What’s more, they’re so busy that they have to schedule drink dates to even see one another, and generally neglect their children, who are being raised by the nanny. So when their marriage is threatened by an affair — and worse — it’s hard to care very much (except for the kids, that is). Vincenzi’s writing is as sharp and smart as ever. But next time out, I hope she lavishes her attention on worthier subjects for our attention.

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