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When we first meet Ben Shamas, he is having a hard time of it: Two years after the death of his only child, he has divorced his wife, left his law firm, and lost his ambition. Although he allows himself an occasional drunken binge, work has become his preferred escape: "Most activities that cause you to forget your preoccupations, who you are, or what day it is—drugs, alcohol, sex, violent exercise—are transitory or have unpleasant sequels, or both. But work is safe and predictable." Ben plods cheerlessly away as an appeals attorney and tries not to dwell on things until Jeannie Parrish, a childhood friend, comes to him with a problem. Jeannie's brother Bobby is running for the US Senate, and Jeannie is worried that a shady real-estate deal she made a few years back will be found out and used against Bobby in the campaign. Can Ben help? He tries, and is quickly enmeshed in an escalating series of intrigues and political dirty tricks. An old college classmate threatens to expose Bobby as a quondam acid-head; the opposing candidate's campaign manager (a childhood friend of Ben's) discovers that Bobby was treated by a psychiatrist. As if this weren't enough, Bobby's wife (once Ben's girlfriend) starts coming on to Ben over telephones that turn out to be tapped. The overriding motive for all the schemes seems to be vengeance; neither the problems themselves nor the anger behind them turns out to be especially deep, however, since in the end they are cleared up quickly, neatly, and with small surprise.
A skillful exposition of very little: Glickman seems to have mastered the politician's art of using rhetoric to inflate the mundane without transfiguring its shape.