<B>The beat of a city's heart</B> Novelist Keith Ridgway is inspired by Dublin, his home. It was the setting for his acclaimed debut, <B>The Falling</B>, and in his second novel, <I>The Parts</I>, the city plays an even larger role, stepping in as the novel's seventh character, throbbing with a life of its own. The six human characters are also meticulously crafted; related in various ways, they meld only in the final chapters.

Delly Roche, the wealthy widow of a pharmaceuticals manufacturer, is dying. Hoping for "a painless lingering, and a quick get out," she has returned to the mansion outside Dublin where her husband met his tragic death. Delly is accompanied by Kitty Flood, a novelist, friend, and companion with more than a passing interest in Delly's huge inheritance. Also in attendance is Dr. George Addison-Blake, an American with a fake M.D. whose main talent is keeping Delly in a nearly comatose state. Joe Kavanagh, a radio talk-show host, lives in Dublin's "minor suburbs." The divorced father of a six-year-old daughter, he doesn't know his neighbors, and has no friends. Trying to jumpstart his stagnating career, Joe sends his producer, Barry, on a mission to find "the hopeless and the damned" to come on his talk show. Barry, younger than Joe and gay, first delivers him a junkie, then visits the riverside "rent boy" district where young male prostitutes go to attract middle-aged cruisers. There Barry meets Kevin, and, though trying to keep their relationship on a professional level, becomes deeply attracted to him.

These six characters gradually meet and merge in bizarre and at the same time poignant ways, with the ever-present Dublin injected into every page. In stream-of-consciousness ramblings, the author focuses in on the city's underbelly the "working Dublin, queer Dublin, junkie Dublin . . . homeless Dublin . . . mother Dublin . . . hungry Dublin . . . Bono's Dublin." Ridgway masterfully draws his characters with a perceptive and cutting edge, bringing them face-to-face with the reader. We know his characters so well we wince at their foibles and empathize with their insecurities. And hovering over all of them like a fog is a portrait of Dublin impossible to forget.

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