Books: Storm in an Espresso Cup

PRAISE A FINE DAY (179 pp.)—Sigrid de Lima—Random House ($3.50).

Time was when a fictional hero sold his soul to the Devil; nowadays the Devil often seems to sell his to the hero. Manhattan-born Sigrid de Lima, 37, has attempted a novel in the older fashion, but before Praise a Fine Day ends, her nameless painter-hero appears more devilish than the odd bargain he makes and breaks.

The expatriate American hero-heel, who tells this story in first-person flashback, has a code of sorts. He believes that arty ends justify ratty means. Setting up his easel on Rome's Spanish Steps, he sketches the pigeons...

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