Look behind the trendy trappings of this overlong psycho-melodrama, and you'll recognize an old modern-gothic chestnut: the...



Look behind the trendy trappings of this overlong psycho-melodrama, and you'll recognize an old modern-gothic chestnut: the one about the murdered parents, the evil uncle, and the orphan who grows up with a big inheritance, bad dreams, amnesia. . . and lots of peril. The orphan here (not the usual damsel) is Peter Carey, six years old in 1959, when his beloved father and not-so-beloved mother died in a car crash--a crash from which wee Peter was somehow rescued in the nick of time. And the reader knows that the crash was probably engineered by Peter's uncle Phillip--who, determined to prevent Peter's father Charles from inheriting the controlling share of the family publishing firm, conspired with psychotic J. J. Englehardt, an HUAC/CIA agent with an obsessive (unconvincing) hatred for Charles Carey. Peter, however, has no memory of the car-crash years, just nightmares. So, circa 1982, 29-year-old, super-handsome Peter is seeking psychiatric help from his father's old chum Dr. William Levy. Will analysis (plus hypnosis) unlock the secret of that '59 crash? That's a big worry for mercenary Uncle Phillip, especially since he's now in the process of trying to sell the family firm to a conglomerate before Peter (a more idealistic publishing type) takes over the company at age 30. But things are soon taken out of Phillip's hands: the crazed Englehardt reappears, with a homicidal, wack-o henchman, to spy on Peter, with the full surveillance treatment; Englehardt and the conglomerate head (who also has a longtime hatred for the Careys) conspire to destroy Peter's psyche; bodies start falling; Peter's photographer/girlfriend is kidnapped. And there's a long showdown/finale--with Peter remembering The Truth about the crash (few surprises for the reader) and going up against the psychos. Patterson, author of a Washington-conspiracy thriller (The Lasko Tangent) and a gnarled murder mystery (The Outside Man), is recycling an even flimsier genre this time, trying to jazz it up with sex, psychology, and publishing. But the talent that flickered in those earlier thrillers is less evident here, and what remains is a shlock psycho-gothic with pretensions: terribly contrived, stretched out with overwrought repetition, but competent enough (especially in the engaging 1950s prologue) for undemanding suspense fans.

Pub Date: May 31, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983