A second novel (though first to be published in the US) from expatriot American writer Amidon combines a story of alcoholism and the family with a suspenser involving business chicanery and Native Americans. Daniel North is a young American actor living in London, preparing to see his father for the first time in 13 years. But Cal dies of a heart attack on the flight to London, leaving Daniel curious about the mysterious business deal his father wanted to tell him about. He accompanies the body back to Phoenix, where he meets two strangers—his stepmother Lindy and his half-brother James. Cal, an alcoholic, had left Daniel and his mother (since dead) out of shame, and (so Daniel now learns) moved in with Lindy, another alcoholic; only when they were about to lose little James to a foster-home did both parents come to their senses, climb on the wagon, and head West, where Cal found work selling water rights. Daniel and Lindy reach a wary accommodation; he will stay in Phoenix for a time, though their desert subdivision is uninviting and neither Lindy nor Cal's boss, Richard Sweetman, can solve the mystery of Cal's latest deal. As Lindy, scared at suddenly being a single parent, goes on a terrifying, life- threatening bender, Daniel's sleuthing leads him to a nearby Indian reservation, where he learns that Cal had planned to divert water illegally from a government irrigation project in return for a large kickback from the Indians; left unexplained is why Cal would have flown off in the midst of such tricky negotiations. Soon after Daniel's discovery, the plot collapses in melodramatic confusion. The best writing here is about alcoholism; once Amidon's plotting becomes as effective as his taut style, he may write a novel of real power.
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