THE SERPENT'S TOOTH by Christopher Andersen


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An explicit look at yet more murderous rich and super-rich folk. Taking a cue from Dallas and Dynasty, Andersen tells the tale of a tobacco heir who planted a pipe bomb in his family's car, killing his mother, brother, and sister. The deaths brought out all sorts of lesser family skeletons, such as illegitimate children, ""laughing gas abuse"" and other delicacies dear to tabloid readers. Early on, Andersen hits the reader with fistfuls of gore: ""The left side of Margaret's head and all of her once-beautiful face had been ripped away. There was a gaping cavity where her breasts had been. . ."" Such violence is pretty much the level of the entire story. No one in this tale ends up looking very attractive, but beyond the sarcasm implicit in this conclusion, it is difficult to see why the writer believes these murders are of enough interest for a book. The fact that the murderer was able to use part of his mother's estate to pay for his legal costs after killing her contains the kernel of what might have been an interesting look at the legal matters that surround criminal law. However, after mentioning this odd circumstance, Andersen does not further investigate or explain it. Perhaps the problem is that the entire book is aimed far too low. Andersen feels it necessary to identify his rifle in a epigraph as coming from King Lear, as if the overfamiliar tag would have been unidentifiable otherwise. This sorry tale could have been adequately described in a magazine article.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row