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There's nothing terribly wrong with recycling mystery-thriller clichÉs--lots of suspense newcomers do it--but Larsen does it here with off-putting pretentiousness. His narrator-heroine is 30-ish Emma Hobart, who drives a N.Y. cab in 1974, still has a 1960s-rebel aroma, wants to be a writer, and has just broken up with lover Hoyt, legman for an investigative reporter. But then (in an implausible sequence) Emma watches while her cab is used to kill Hoyt; and she promptly turns into a sleuth--pursued by those killer-thugs as she picks up the trail of Hoyt's fatal investigation into the suicide of a congressman's aide/mistress. . . which somehow led to a shady medical research institute. Emma sneaks into the institute, is rescued from some scary testing there by the handsome son of the institute's backer (""We said nothing this time while we fucked, making the noises of animals meeting in delicate combat on a hot plain at midnight""); a body is stashed in her bathtub; her new lover turns out to have a '60s-radical sister who disappeared. And finally, after getting rough with her enemies, Emma finds out the truth--some Vietnam-linked evil, some Ross Macdonald-ish psychopathology--and ends up: "". . . the way things are is monstrous. But in those few days. . . I felt the explicit passion to straggle. Nearly every day since then, when not petting my cat, whose life hasn't changed at all, I've been left with the necessity to struggle to allow room for that passion."" Huh? Some initial charm in the N.Y. cabbie premise--but finally just a tired Macdonald/Chandler imitation, weighed down by artsy and/or preachy lapses.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Random House