Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Dominick Dunne

Pub Date: May 5th, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58386-0
Publisher: Crown

 It's Kennedy-bashing time again, as rich-and-venal chronicler Dunne (An Inconvenient Woman, etc.) drags writer-hero Harrison Burns through 20 years of guilt for having helped our most prominent Irish Catholic family cover up a sex murder by its fair-haired scion. After a brief peek ahead--naughty talk, dirty pictures, and several murders are all mentioned in the first four pages--it's 1972, and Harrison is mysteriously infatuated with prep-school chum Constant Bradley, a plausible cipher who can get aroused only when he's beating up his dates. When Constant's unwanted attentions to Winifred Utley leave her dead on the family estate, Harrison reluctantly helps cover up his guilt, allowing himself to be bought off (``My soul was lost, but my future was bought and paid for'') by Constant's wealthy, ruthless father Gerald (no slouch at covering up his own sex crimes) with the connivance of Constant's slimy, crippled brother Jerry. (Hovering piously on the fringes: Constant's impossibly devout mother Grace, his successful brothers Desmond and Sandro, and his sisters Maureen and Mary Pat, who never mention their retarded, institutionalized sister Agnes.) Then it's 1989, and Harrison, visiting a Maine nursing home to cover one of his true-crime exposÇs, runs into Constant's sister Kitt, visiting crazy Agnes, immediately starts a torrid affair with Kitt, and allows himself to be lured back into the Bradley orbit by the offer to ghostwrite a saccharine family bio to launch Constant's gubernatorial bid. When old man Bradley, trying to take uncooperative Harrison out of the picture for good, overreaches himself, Harrison decides to unload his secret and go after Constant. So in 1993, Harrison looks back over the long-delayed trial--and its inevitable outcome. Dunne may see himself as another F. Scott Fitzgerald, chronicling the moral corruption of the well-to-do (references to Gatsby passim). But the main pleasures here involve nothing more moving than watching a wily old pro set up characters with as much individuality as ninepins preparatory to bowling them down. (Literary Guild Selection for Summer)