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McPherons take her back and see her through with great dedication and kindness. The novel uses multiple points of view, moving back and forth from Victoria's, to the McPherons', to those of the characters who drive the two subplots. Though these subplots sometimes do more to flesh out the müieu of Holt than to provide support for the principal action, they do strengthen the novel's overaU concern with human isolation. One Une of development concerns Ike and Bobby Guthrie, whose mother, EUa, is chronically depressed, occupying a dark sickroom, and who soon abandons them to move in with her no-nonsense sister in Denver. A visit there over Christmas proves futile when their mother's depression once again overcomes her. Other than theti father, only a dying old lady on their paper route (a temporary stand-in for their mother) and the McPherons—whom they know from working on their cattle ranch—enable the two boys to feel part of something larger than themselves . The other subplot concerns Tom Guthrie, their father, who, whUe hesitant to take up a second relationship after the departure of his wife, discovers he's no match for the wUes of Maggie Jones. She is crazy about him, she confesses, and she makes the advances. By the end of the novel, Guthrie has found a new love. In the closing scene, the key characters —Victoria and her baby, the McPheron brothers, the Guthries and Maggie—are gathered together at the McPherons' on Memorial Day. Each has found a new link with one or more of the others, and the chapter is appropriately entitled "Holt," suggesting that even in the midst of apparent desolation, there is hope when people work to create meaningful bonds with each other. Haruf's key strength in this novel is his abtiity to make convincing the unlikely prospect of two old bachelors joining together with a single, pregnant seventeen-year-old. Nothing sexual here—as some in the community might think. No, just caring and ordinary concern. QS) A Conspiracy ofPaper by David Liss Random House, 2000, 442 pp.,$25 David Liss sets this rich, intricate murder mystery in early eighteenthcentury London amid an economic upheaval. His protagonist, Benjamin Weaver is an outsider among outsiders , estranged from his Jewish famUy and stigmatized by the antiSemitism of the time. At first reluctantly, but eventually with impervious determination, Weaver investigates the suspicious death of his father and, in so doing, encounters the often ruthless maneuverings of the rich and powerful. Weaver's first-person account describes his dirty business of glorified bounty hunting and debt collecting—both pursuits that are well suited to the former boxer, highwayman and thief. The tale begins a year after the death of Weaver's father, when Weaver is retained by a man named Balfour to look mto the "suicide" of his own father. Balfour's father was an associate of Weaver's, and in the course of his investigation, Weaver begins to suspect that both The Missouri Review · 181 deaths were linked with the dealings of the South Sea Company, a shady financial venture vying for a place in Britain's economic power structure alongside the Bank of England. The "paper" in the title refers to stock, a financial innovation that is quickly replacing the established hard-money system of England with a seemingly foundationless exchange of shares. Weaver's quest to discover the cause of the elder Batiour's death soon leads to undeniable connections between BaUour and his own father, a notorious stockjobber who was hated by many for taking advantage of the easy-money opportunities provided by stock fluctuation. Before long Weaver is thrown headfirst into a virtuaUy unnavigable labyrinth of money, power and corruption. Such obstacles would be challenge enough, but Weaver must also contend with the demons of his personal IUe: his abandoned famtiy and faith and his precarious position in a London rife with anti-Semitic prejudice . Weil plotted and impressive for its wealth of historicaUy accurate detaU about eighteenth-century finance, Liss' novel is rich with surprises. The book has its shortcomings, however. Liss' style and diction—reminiscent of the speech of the eighteenth century without being...


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