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The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich
by Fritz Leiber

Tor Books, $18.95

Review by Stephanie Bowen

Web posted on: Monday, June 15, 1998 4:21:58 PM EDT

(CNN) -- Discovery is what this book is about from start to finish.

It starts when the novel, written almost 60 years ago, is unearthed shortly before Leiber's death in 1992. As you read "The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich", you feel the mystery of the story itself, but also the magic of its rediscovery.

You should know that this is the first Leiber novel that I've read, therefore I can't compare it to others he wrote before or after. However, this tale of creepy science and quirky human behavior hits the page with a style that must belong only to Leiber himself.

Original technique in prose, as well as incredibly suspenseful events, litter the pages -- arousing the reader to keep going until the puzzle is solved. While a short book -- 126 pages -- the payoff is big.

What starts out as a simple story of a man off to see an old college buddy becomes a bizarre string of events which calls everything we know into question.

George Kramer, the narrator, arrives to the small town of Smithville where his two college friends now live. While the three haven't seen each other in 10 years, Kramer decides to visit them upon learning from Daniel Kesserich that John Ellis' wife has died, unexpectedly.

Kramer gets to Smithville only to find that Ellis and Kesserich are missing and the entire town is in some sort of a trance and hysterical over the belief that Ellis' wife was really buried alive. He is confronted by a series of unexplainable occurrences -- stones that appear out of nowhere, a house that catches fire spontaneously, and the townspeople who are driven by an illogical force. All of which brings him dangerously close to being taken in by the spell himself.

The pages unveil more than a first-rate sci-fi story. Its as if this book is a post-modern or cubist painting where the characters are brought to life not only by their actions, but by the philosophical angst that drives them through the outlayed events -- events that have the ability to change the universe.

This macabre, yet delightful novel is complimented by wonderful drawings that help capture the spirit of the writings as well as take the reader back 60 years to when this novel was written.

It's a joy to read, and gets the imagination juices flowing!

Stephanie Bowen has worked for CNN for over seven years in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles. She is currently exploring the world of creative writing at UCLA and participates in a monthly book group.

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