JUST PLAY DEAD by Dan Gordon


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 Hawaiian-Jewish cop Denil Kahane limns Nora Wolfe, who has hired a boy-toy to kill her husband, like this: ``Thirty-seven or thirty-eight is the perfect age for a woman. . . The rose is no longer a dewy bud holding tight to its promise, rather it is in full long-petalled sweet high-test perfumed blood-red and glorious bloom.'' Gordon's funfilled debut novel carries a big hook. Aside from noir plotting familiar as an old slipper, the most attractive features of his breakthrough from the prose-shrinking strictures of screenwriting (the grittily bravura Murder in the First) are Gordon's firespurting pinwheel rhapsodies on women, adolescence, and whatever he's looking at when his loose and swirling endorphins explode. On Maui, Nora Wolfe seduces monosyllabic teen-surfer Chad into the old Postman Always Rings Twice/Double Indemnity ploy of you-murder-my-rich-husband-Jack-and-we'll-have-sex-forever. At 15, Nora was a runaway tied to a druggie rock musician who broke her jaw; at 20, she was fresh meat in L.A. and had her jaw broken by a German industrialist; at 35, she shot a Japanese trick twice, killing him, then fell under the wing of Jack Wolfe. But today Jack is actually broke and wants Chad to ``murder'' him so Nora will get Jack's $15M insurance payoff. In Hawaii a body is not needed for a death declared, only a murderer. So Nora need only say Chad offed Jack for the death to be valid. Where's Jack's body?--why, eaten by sharks! When Nora and Chad plan a triple cross, and Jack a quadruple, the plot flipflops: each side knows fully and agrees to the other's motives. This half-serious noir satire could have a large but brief future, while Gordon's deliriously erotic prosebursts may well win him a lasting readership.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-16876-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997