by Richard Bausch ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1998
Bausch's eighth (Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America and all the Ships at Sea, 1996, etc.) is a standard-issue thriller probably modeled on the grisly ""entertainments"" of David Martin. The foreground action offers one of the most elaborate red herrings to be found in the genre: a friendship between widowed schoolteacher Nora Michaelson and black TV repairman Edward Bishop that offends neighbors in their small Virginia town and makes both recipients of hate mail from the white supremacist Virginia Front. Nora and her 11-year-old son Jason are held hostage in their home by a pair of gunmen; Bishop is simultaneously terrorized in his own home--and, as Bausch deftly expands the narrative, Nora's parents Henry and Gwendolyn Spencer are held captive in their Seattle home by Ricky, a nervous ""associate"" of the Virginia abductors. It's soon enough clear that that interracial friendship has nothing to do with the plot--which involves stolen computer chips held by Nora's late husband, whose ""old army buddies"" have come to reclaim them. Of course, the detective investigating a reported disturbance that looks like a hate crime is himself the victim of a failed marriage and of blocked communication with his beloved daughters--and Bausch obligingly tightens the screws on both coasts. The Michaelsons' oppressors are pure Hollywood types: the (late-arriving) Reuther, suave German mastermind; tough guy Travis, who has sexual designs on the feisty Nora; and his gross, murderous brother ""Bags,"" the nightmarish pursuer of plucky young Jason. Few clichÆ’s are left unturned in a made-to-order melodrama that's reminiscent, at various times, of ""The Desperate Hours,"" ""The Purloined Letter,"" and ""Wait Until Dark."" A predictable climactic bloodbath involves two of the malefactors, a last-minute rescue, and an unbelievably contrived-and maudlin-ending. If Bausch is trying to sell this as serious fiction, he should be ashamed of himself. If he's taking a break from more purely literary endeavors and seeking the big bucks, more power to him. Writing the screenplay should be a breeze.
Pub Date: June 1, 1998
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998
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