UNPUNISHED by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


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 Not just Unpunished but Unpublished: This 1929 novel by pioneering feminist Gilman is breaking into print for the first time. In outline it reads like a parody of the formal conventions of its age. Criminal lawyer Wade Vaughn has been shot, stabbed, bashed, strangled, and poisoned to death; his household is awash with tormented relatives, resentful servants, and mysterious visitors; the sleuths, Jim and Bessie Hunt, are a breezy husband- and-wife team equally at home donning disguises and compounding felonies. But Gilman (``The Yellow Wallpaper,'' Herland) obviously has more than fun on her mind. Sadistic blackmailer Vaughn, who toys with his crippled sister-in-law Jacqueline (``Jack'') Warner and his hopeful heirs like a cat with a brace of three blind mice, is a nightmare composite of male monstrosities far too common in Gilman's time, or yesterday; and the ``Multi-Murder,'' as the newspapers dub it, is aptly described by a sympathetic neighbor as ``the nicest murder I ever heard of.'' The workmanlike plot, which makes room for everyone's homicidal impulses, ends with a revelation of a sixth means of death as absurd as it is emotionally satisfying. Gilman obviously intends horrid Vaughn to be overshadowed by heroic Jack. The most enduring memory readers are likely to take away from her stoic travail wrapped in a cheerful detective fantasy, though, is of a man who was none too good for getting killed five (or was it six?) times.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55861-170-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997