By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated December 15, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Imagine Raymond Chandler filing from New Zealand with a little help from Anne Rice and Jean-Paul Sartre, and you’re still not close to imagining the oddity of the weird, wonderful novel Shirker. We begin with futures broker Ellerslie Penrose stumbling upon a mutilated corpse and pocketing the dead man’s wallet; as Penrose takes it upon himself to find the killer, he becomes involved with another, century-old murder and some mighty funky characters. Taylor’s structural instincts are so unerring and his tersely elegant language so seductive that the story never once falters — even as it morphs from a murder mystery into an exploration of passion and mortality. B+