The critics have not been kind to Nino Ricci's new novel, In A Glass House (M&S), and we had hoped to be in disagreement with them. But generally the critics are right: there is a flatness in this book not to be found in The Lives of the Saints, despite brilliant passages and some very clear thinking. Part of the problem is in the protagonist, a dreary fellow who might be said to out-think himself too often, to the point of downright tiresomeness. But a sterner editor could have helped this book simply by helping the author fight off two stylistic mannerisms that marred his first book without hurting it, but here are allowed to run wild: the first is a maddening tendency to drop pronoun subjects in sentence clauses, the second an equally maddening habit of wrapping sentences in layers of dangling participial phrases, thereby muffling whatever energy the sentence had to begin with. The result: our perceptions are often misdirected, and at times we feel like there must be cotton batten in our ears.