Kirkus Star


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Perhaps the still-buzzing debate over NY's much-retried Alice Crimmins case--the inspiration for this over-extended police procedural--will indeed turn The Investigation into a Big Book; its real merits are limited and don't stretch 350 pages. As in the actual, an attractive young mother with many boyfriends and many Mafioso connections (Uhnak calls her Kitty Keeler) is accused of murdering her two bedridden children, then enlisting underworld help to dispose of the bodies. The narrator here is about-to-retire Joe Peters of the DA's Investigating Squad, who's dandy when reporting the grisly dead-baby facts or grilling witnesses, but not so dandy--or believable--when he starts to get emotionally involved with the accused: ""Maybe something a little helpless beneath the surface toughness; maybe something a little injured in the dead center of her beautiful cold eyes. There was another Kitty. . . ."" Convinced that lie-telling, unemotional Kitty is being railroaded into conviction by overeager cops and a DA with political ambitions, Joe pretends to vacation in Florida (his wife's on the verge of a new life there) while really investigating solo and comforting Kitty horizontally. Kitty keeps changing her story (especially after her marshmallow husband pulls a confession-and-suicide), and Joe keeps finding evidence to back her up, so it comes as far less a final surprise to us than to lovestruck Joe that he's been a patsy all along. As always (Law and Order, etc.), Uhnak's Brooklyn-Queens expressway is paved with garbagepail-real detail and precise lunch-counterese, and her command of the cop & court milieu is swift and forceful--like the whack of a nightstick. But Joe's phony moves and Kitty's chameleon character are mechanically orchestrated, as are the City Hall corruptions that fill the background. The straight police blotter would have looked fine, but, stretched into a broad canvas, it shows up thin and frayed and full of holes.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Simon & Schuster