THE RENEWABLE VIRGIN by Barbara Paul
Kirkus Star

THE RENEWABLE VIRGIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After varied, seemingly desperate, wildly uneven mystery-fiction attempts over the past few years, hitting rock-bottom with 1984's A Cadenza for Caruso, Paul finally seems to have found her style--in a fast-moving, funny story of murder in N.Y.'s media world. When marginally successful TV-writer Rudy Benedict is killed by cyanide, it first appears that the victim was meant to be gorgeous, aspiring actress Kelly Ingrain. Soon, however, careful police-work--mostly by plain, humane detective Marian Larch--disproves that theory. So Marian now encourages Rudy's Michigan-based mother, history prof Fiona, to search through her son's voluminous papers for any hint of a motive. But Fiona can't concentrate on Rudy's murder right away. Why not? Because she herself, momentarily deranged, is too busy attempting murder in N.Y.--when pop-historian Richard Ormsby publishes a book on the Crimean War just before the publication of Fiona's own scholarly tome! Eventually, however, after failing to kill Ormsby (someone else succeeds), Fiona heads home to Michigan, where she does indeed turn up a clue in her son's papers: it points to actress Kelly's lover Ted Cameron, a conglomerate president who's strangely in thrall to sadistic producer Nathan Pinking. And, with an assist from Fiona, cop Marian eventually makes all the right connections between past and present--involving a missing painting, a long-simmering business feud, and an old murder. Complex, full of zingy dialogue and fully-textured characters--and certainly, despite a few lapses in plausibility and background-detail, Paul's best work to date.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Scribners