THE CABLE CAR MURDER by Elizabeth Atwood Taylor


Email this review


A strong, if uneven, first outing for an engaging new sleuth team in San Francisco: narrator Maggie Elliott, a youngish widow and recovered alcoholic whose mega-rich older half-sister Celia fatally falls (?) beneath the wheels of an approaching cable car; and crusty retired cop R. P. O'Reagan, one of the witnesses to the ""accident."" The teaming-up doesn't happen, however, until two years after Celia's death. In the meantime, Celia's daughter Lindy (who inherited the family fortune, along with spaced-out brother Mark) has died in an airplane bomb-crash, supposedly the work of a new terrorist gang; and widower Henry, Celia's second husband, has remarried after inheriting Lindy's share. So Maggie has grown in. creasingly suspicious, and when she bumps into an equally suspicious O'Reagan, the investigating begins, with psychiatrist Henry (and new wife Beatrice) as chief suspects, along with an interior decorator who fobbed off a fake Renoir on Celia. True, some of this detecting/rehashing gets a bit talky. And the final shoot-out/showdown with the loquacious killer is hackneyed modern-gothic stuff. But Maggie is unusually likable, an unkooky yet wry and offbeat heroine--an eater, a smoker, an ex-drinker, a so-so potter, a well-bred bohemian. And a large supporting cast (Celia's old Spanish cook, the killer's old high-school teacher, etc.) is sketched in endearingly as Taylor, in the Agatha Christie manner, generates texture by delving into everyone's past. So: an appealing, if flawed, debut--with great promise for the future (Maggie and O'Reagan are headed for a private-eye firm, not to mention romance), as long as Taylor can keep the honest, earthy charm here from sliding over into cutesiness.

Pub Date: Dec. 21st, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's