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The Egyptian Jukebox: A Cunundrum, Nick Bantock, Viking.

Old Hamilton Hasp, the eccentric millionaire, constructed an unusual cabinet before he disappeared. Within the cabinet are ten drawers, each one filled with cryptic, symbolic objects arranged as clues in a puzzle. As each drawer is opened, a recording of Hasp is triggered in which he tells a bizarre tale drawn from his many travels to the far corners of the world. "Where do my worlds join?" is the question Hasp poses, and which his odd cabinet--The Egyptian Jukebox--answers if the reader can pick out the proper clues and solve the puzzle.

A novel blend of artbook, mystery puzzle, and literary work, The Egyptian Jukebox leads to a denouement of less-than-fabulous proportions. And the puzzle was beyond this reader's modest deductive abilities. I had to peek. But Nick Bantock displays two talents that make his book nonetheless enjoyable.

The first is an ability to tell brief, fantastical tales in the manner of an old British club member regaling his fellows with his exploits in distant In-juh. The second is a skill at creating evocative assemblages. Each drawer has been constructed by Bantock from paint, bits of collaged paper, wood, metal and such odds-and-ends as postage stamps and spools. These assemblages are presented in giant, two-page, full-color photo spreads which successfully capture the mood of the accompanying stories and intrigue the eye.

Good for a Sunday afternoon read.

--Thomas Wiloch