FATAL FRIEND by Barry Falkson


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London accountant Scott Barrington--as we learn from the flashbacks that pad out this flimsy mini-thriller--has become an unemployed, alcoholic, poverty-stricken wreck. . . thanks to a doomed extramarital affair, a disastrous divorce, and professional disgrace. So, when Scott is promised 100,000 pounds by a sinister stranger, it's an offer he can't quite refuse. Unfortunately, however, to earn this fortune Scott must murder a long-ago school chum named Gerald Sharp! Why does this sinister Group (""a large, incredibly powerful organization"") want scientist Sharp dead? Because, after working on the Group's payroll, Sharp ran off with the plans for a super-duper new invention of some kind. (It turns out, as usual, to involve oil and OPEC.) Why choose Scott as assassin? Because, as an old chum, he can get past the tight security surrrounding Sharpe at his N.Y. hotel. After some quickie training, then, Scott goes off to N.Y., where he starts to lose his taste for hit-man-dom--especially after meeting tough/nice Kate, a visiting Vegas madam who tells Scott that his Group is obviously tied to the Mob. (She herself is ""heavily involved with the Mob, the rackets. . . oh, anything illegal you care to name."") And eventually, while reaching ""new paroxysms of frenzied rapture,"" Scott and Kate conspire to get away without killing Sharp. . . but with the 100,000 pounds and Sharp's invention-plans. Stocked with inept imitation-US dialogue (seemingly based on 1940s gangster movies) and pulpy prose: a farfetched, sporadically lively caper--from a South African first-novelist who'd be better off writing about people and places closer to home.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow