Mystery novelist Press helps uncover a real-life murder in her hometown of Salem, Mass. Press, known for her convincing fictional portraits of New England's seamy side (Elegy for a Thief, 1993, etc.), came across a poster in 1991 of a missing local woman, was intrigued, and followed the tangled trail. Artist Martha Brailsford went for a quick sail with her neighbor, Tom Maimoni, a recently widowed engineer. She never returned. Press does a solid job of conveying the anxiety of Martha's husband and her twin sister, and the sordid whispers that swirled around the small town. Within a few days, the police discovered that Maimoniwas not an engineer, nor was he widowed, and when Brailsford's body was found by a lobsterman, Maimoni became the prime suspect in an ugly murder investigation. Other women stepped forward: In the weeks before Brailsford's death several had gone sailing with the suspect; he would strip once they were out on the water, and the experience had left them either embarrassed or afraid. Maimoni, when questioned by the police, offered a series of conflicting tales, including the assertions that a nude sunbather had killed Brailsford and that the dead woman had been drinking and slipped off the boat. The obligatory trial scenes are dull, and Press's fascination with Salem witch Laurie Cabot, who added little to this case, seems jarring. While Press believes Maimoni to be a psychopath, she offers little corroboration for her claim. The stage for the crime is evocative, but the telling of the tale is flat and, coming from a crime novelist, strangely lacking in mystery.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996
Page Count: 304
Publisher: "Addicus (P.O. Box 37327, Omaha, NE 68137-0327)"