BOOKS: Scorn Syrup

A novel with a custard pie for every face that shows itself

Richard Dooling is impartially derisive in his caustic second novel, White Man's Grave (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 386 pages; $22). He chucks a custard pie at every face that shows itself. There's Randall Killigan, an Indianapolis attorney who glories in the dismemberment allowed by bankruptcy law: the wrenching of great financial chunks from the carcasses of not-quite-dead companies. And there's young Boone Westfall, newly employed to reject legitimate claims at his father's sleazy insurance company. "Why do you think they call it work?" Dad asks, when Boone objects that cheating widows and orphans is tedious.

But Dooling is only warming up....

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