Gotlieb's True Confections (1980) was one of the unnoticed little gems of recent fiction-comedy--so it's disappointing to...

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A WOMAN OF CONSEQUENCE

Gotlieb's True Confections (1980) was one of the unnoticed little gems of recent fiction-comedy--so it's disappointing to report that, though bubbling with talent here and there, this second novel is an unsatisfying mix of diplomatic backgrounds (Gotlieb is the wife of Canada's US Ambassador), blurry spy intrigue, and unconvincing murder-mystery. The heroine is Nini Pike, wife of Canada's Prime Minister--who has been mysteriously depressed lately. What's the reason? Well, Nini's being blackmailed--and, as she starts confessing all to her doctor-friend Eleanor, a 160-page flashback ensues to explain just why. Circa 1962, Nini is in Geneva with diplomat-husband Barry: the now el's best pages fill in the Barry/Nini courtship (her inability to have children, his reluctance to marry a relatively rich girl) and Nini's attempt to make some sort of life for herself in this forbiddingly cosmopolitan city. (She doesn't know about ladies' dinner etiquette; she washes her hands in a ""rather quaint"" sink--the urinal.) But soon Nini is preoccupied with two of Barry's shadier colleagues: his boss, Hugh Hilary-Moulds, is a moody sort who disappears without explanation, has violent moments, and (though he takes to Nini) may be determined to sabotage Barry's career; and Roland Neville, an old flame of Nini's, is now a diplomat in Hungary who appears in Geneva, confesses his homosexuality to Nini, and seems to be up to no good. Is either (or are both) of these two men spying for the Russians? And is Hilary-Moulds' subsequent sudden death--officially from natural causes--a murder? So it seems. Roland Neville (now, circa 1982, a journalist) has appeared to blackmail Nini: unless she convinces Barry not to run for re-election, Neville will reveal that Nini--to protect Barry's future--murdered Hilary-Moulds via insulin injection. But, in the busy, murky final chapters, more murders ensue, the real truth of the 1962 murder surfaces (a sort of Agatha-Christie-gone-kinky explanation). . . and Barry and Nini both decide that they're fed up with political pressures anyway. Despite a few promising suspense notions and sporadic reaffirmation of Gotlieb's comic talents: an uneven mishmash--and far from the grand diplomacy satire that Gotlieb's credentials would lead you to expect.

Pub Date: May 10, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983