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Kennedy's Copenhagen Quartet finished

Beneath the Neon Egg. By Thomas E. Kennedy. 179 pages. $26.00.


In this fourth and final volume of Thomas E. Kennedy’s celebrated Copenhagen Quartet, Patrick Bluett is a lonely American ex-pat living in Copenhagen. The name Bluett may be a play on words, by the way. Bluett himself wonders if he “blew it”; that is, if he failed at life. He has two grown children, a son and a daughter, with both of whom he has uneasy relationships, and he is divorced from his Danish wife. To make a living, he works five days a week translating documents for Danish companies, five days a week, five pages a day—that’s what it takes him to pay his bills. So every weekday, he does his five pages. At night and on weekends, he spiffs up and wonders the streets of Copenhagen, searching for love and sex and jazz in various bars, night clubs and restaurants. Even this causes him anguish, though, as he is in many ways a thoroughly moral man, a man who feels the pain of guilt when he feels he is taking advantage of others. He is a fallen Catholic, and the Catholic conscience is still very much alive in him even though he tries to convince himself that his true religion is the worship of life in the senses.

As in the previous books[1] the beautiful city of Copenhagen comes alive for the reader, becomes, in fact, almost another character in the story. Despite the beauties of his adopted city, despite the many bars he visits, he is alone and lonely, always searching. The women he meets and sleeps with do not offer him true intimacy, and intimacy, it seems, is what he craves. Only an old flame, Liselotte, a woman he had an affair with when they were both married, seems to satisfy his sexual itch, though, predictably, he tells her from the time he takes up with her again that he is only interested in a bit of fun and companionship, not a long term relationship. One wonders if he both craves intimacy and fears it, a condition not all that unusual among men of almost any age.

For a while the sexual games and companionship are enough for Liselotte, but after he recklessly exposes her to danger in a rough section of Copenhagen, where they see a man viciously beaten, they return to his apartment and there, while he is sleeping, she finds a coaster in his jacket pocket, a coaster with another woman’s name and phone number written on it. Liselotte cannot tolerate being second to another woman, she tells him, and Patrick resents her going through his pockets, so they argue and she leaves in a huff. When loneliness overcomes him again, he calls her, but she rebuffs him.

Across the hallway from his apartment lives Bluett’s friend, Sam Finglas. When Sam commits suicide, Bluett remembers that Sam had asked to store a box in his locker in their building’s basement. When Bluett finds the box and examines its contents, he realizes that the woman he thought was Sam’s girlfriend has been blackmailing him and systematically draining off his wealth. At Sam’s death, there is little left for his children, not even Sam’s residence, and, angry, Bluett goes to the club where she works as a dancer and prostitute to confront her.

In a stunning ending, Bluett ends up in the hospital and re-connects with Liselotte beneath the neon egg, an urban symbol of what the reader hopes will be a re-birth for both the conflicted Patrick Bluett and his lover.

[1] In the Company of Angels, Falling Sideways, and Kerrigan in Copenhagen: A Love Story