A lawyer-turned-shamus is hired to hunt up a former American serviceman's Vietnamese child—with a $50 million bequest as the stakes. A few months before he died of a stroke, telecommunications king Matthew Marshall recounted in a codicil to his will how he secretly fathered a child in a 1971 tour of Vietnam; though he never saw the child and doesn't even know its gender or its mother's present name or whereabouts, he wants it located and given half his estate. Adam Bruno, the investigator Marshall's punctilious attorneys hire to look for the child, starts with nothing more than an address book full of names and numbers of people who all agree that Marshall—hard-driving, gregarious Marshall—never talked about Vietnam. With the help of some cryptically annotated photos and a few timely anonymous letters in Vietnamese, Bruno tracks down Marshall's mates from Vietnam, but most of them—from a crazy upstate hermit who ambushes visitors to a haunted Florida abortionist to a cagey CIA op whose years in a think tank haven't made him any more forthcoming— don't want to talk either, and the ones that do can give him only the slimmest hints about Cricket, the elusive woman in Marshall's life. Crisscrossing the country by airplane and computer hookup, Bruno slowly, slowly closes in on the ancient history that everybody's so unwilling to face. Meanwhile, back in New York, someone—presumably some member of Marshall's legitimate family, all of them reluctant to see their shares of the estate cut in half—is taking strong measures (theft, espionage, homicide) to insure that Cricket's story will never come out. Occasional novelist Topor (Coda, 1984, etc.) has envisioned all this as synthetically and suspensefully as in one of his screenplays (The Accused, etc.). Breathless stuff right down to the wire: a rare civil case that comes on as strong as all those fictional actions across the hall in the criminal courtroom.
Read full book review >