FAGO by Berton RouechÉ


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The plot may seem as familiar and as one-two-twist as one of those Alfred Hitchcock Presents short stories: respectable but insolvent couple plans murder, does murder, plan backfires ironically. But RouechÉ, a stern weigher of words, invests the simple-sentenced, slightly benumbed narration of 62-year-old retired executive Chick Hill with enough quiet foreboding and silent scream to hold your beady-eyed attention--as Chick and his Lady Macbeth, 50-ish Arlene (""Look at my hands! I want something more""), carefully accomplish the old life-insurance swindle, with a fake suicide and substitute corpse (unlucky Mr. Fago) for highly insured Chick. And, as Arlene's true motives surface and violence moves from neutral into high gear, reluctant empathy for Chick's situation--retirement was a ""life sentence"" and ""the only pardon was money""--switches to something akin to pity and terror. Especially after the recent spate of giddy, goofy murderers who get away with it, RouechÉ's return--even in this uninventive and abbreviated mode--comes as a cold, welcome reminder of the claw-hold that can be activated when evil is faced straight up and head-on.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row