TRUE CRIME by Andrew Klavan


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 Often laugh-out-loud suspense about a low-life, adulterous, sexist reporter who attempts to save what he thinks is an innocent man from a lethal injection in a Missouri state prison. Klavan (Corruption, 1994, etc.) prefaces this fourth novel under his own name with a quote from supercynic Ben Hecht about the notorious depravity of reporters, then hangs the thought on a ne'er-do-well newspaperman already cast out of New York for sins of the zipper. Even in St. Louis, Steve Everett is invaginating his city editor's wife when the cuckolded editor phones his own bedroom to tell his thunderstruck wife, Patricia, that Steve is needed at the office: He's to interview Frank Beachum, a murderer condemned to die that evening, and write a human-interest sidebar to go with the paper's straight news story. Everett, however, comes across information that points to lying witnesses and Beachum's innocence- -and he has but 18 hours to prove anything before the midnight needle. Meanwhile, in a cruelly funny scene, to appease his wife, Barbara, he must take his two-year-old son to the zoo, and of course the kid gets stiffed left and right by his obsessed daddy, who is no fairer a father than he is a husband. As in Hecht- MacArthur's The Front Page, the story focuses as well on Death Row and Beachum's visits by Everett, the warden, a minister, Beachum's wife and daughter, and the physical arrangements and protocol for the execution--all of which, though well written, are filler for Everett's sleuthing. When the radio falsely reports Beachum's confession, Everett's job evaporates, and following a phone confession to Patricia, Barbara hands her wedding ring back to the beaten newshound. As the night winds down, fired, dewifed, dechilded Everett gets drunk but then recalls some crucial information. At 11:40 p.m. or so, can a drunken driver get all the evidence together and get to the prison before midnight? Klavan's venture into humor pays off terrifically and quite equals the suspense, but his fiddle-playing for Beachum tires. (First printing of 250,000; film rights to Twentieth Century-Fox)

Pub Date: June 14th, 1995
ISBN: 0-517-70213-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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