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THE MERCHANT OF VENUS by Ellen Hart

THE MERCHANT OF VENUS

By Ellen Hart

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26618-9
Publisher: Minotaur

Lesbian impresario Cordelia Thorn is startled when her much-married sister Octavia, a Broadway star she hasn’t spoken to since the death of their mother eight years ago, insists that she attend her latest wedding, this one to octogenarian ex-movie director Roland Lester. With due misgivings, Cordelia agrees, cheering herself up by dragging along her best friend, Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless, who’s recovering from a break-in and a flawed relationship with a woman doctor (Hunting the Witch, 1999). When they arrive at Lester’s decrepit Connecticut estate, they find in residence his gofer brother Buddy; his grandniece Grace, who thinks she’s in line to inherit most everything; documentary filmmaker Ellie Saks, who’s skulking around in the dead of night going through Lester’s private files; and long-deceased film star Lew Wallace’s son Christian, who’s been receiving a yearly stipend of $100,000 from Lester for murky reasons. Things finally get into gear with the arrival of fabled star Verna Lang and the Thorn sisters’ alcoholic dad. Lester is poisoned, Ellie is bludgeoned, and hetero-, homo-, and bisexual insinuations swirl. The sisters and Jane traipse hither and yon to discover what the key Lester gave Octavia will open—something, he insisted, worth millions. The discovery sparks a conflagration that the girls barely escape, along with the unlucky readers who’ve followed them this far.

A spurious dying message, a card game, a secret formula, much outing of ’40s and ’50s movie stars, theatrics and bombastics from the sisters, and a mild flirtation for Jane—all add more and more empty calories to the endless nonsense.