NINTH LIFE by Don Matheson


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Less engaging than Stray Cat (1988), this second caper/thriller for Charlie Gamble (a nautical adventurer la Travis McGee) and beautiful, flaky Rosy Marlette involves an intriguing art-world scam but far too much mindless, contrived mayhem. Pining for lost love Rosy, Charlie relocates from Boston to posh East Hampton, L.I., where he starts up a marina and boatyard (with cash from a quick hoax down in Florida). Then, more or less by coincidence, Rosy turns up in East Hampton, too--acclaimed as the genius behind a sudden gallery-ful of trendy, super-skillful paintings. But, as Charlie soon figures out, Rosy (no painter at all) is merely the front-woman for a cynical exercise in hype: slimy gallery-owner Ansley Sams, in secret cahoots with the editor of Art-salon magazine and a jailed art-forger, has managed to create a sensation (and big-money sales) out of shrewdly concocted canvases and Rosy's sexy persona. And cold, greedy Sams (an ex-con for inside trading) will do anything to keep the profitable flimflam from unraveling: he'll frame the forger for murder to keep him in line; he'll blackmail and abduct Rosy (who has her own agenda) to maintain control; and he'll have Charlie gruesomely tortured to prevent the intrepid hero from learning too much. Promising ideas and potent ingredients--including the art-forger's dignified death from AIDS--but crudely melodramatic, frequently unconvincing, and insufficiently charming in the central portraits of Charlie and Rosy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster