WIDOW'S WEB by Gene Lyons


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 Entertainment Weekly book critic Lyons (The Higher Illiteracy, 1988--not reviewed)--winner of a National Magazine Award--gets caught up in a bizarre but boring tale of conspiracy, murder, lies, publicity, lust, politics, and mayhem in early 80's Little Rock. The amazingly complicated story begins on March morning in 1981, when 35-year-old brunette bombshell Mary Lee Orsini reports that she's just found her husband--modest air-conditioning mechanic Ron--shot dead in their suburban bedroom. The cops--at first inclined to rule the killing a suicide--soon find themselves scouring the county, trying to disprove Mary Lee's increasingly wild tales of Ron's former drug and Mafia connections, disappearing bags of cash, and threats to her own and her daughter's life. Meanwhile, another murder occurs: that of Alice McArthur--wife of Mary Lee's lawyer, Bill McArthur--shot dead and stuffed in a closet, apparently by a ``salt-and-pepper'' team of hit men. When captured, the killers--two local drug addicts--implicate Bill McArthur, who, however, is clearly innocent--and who suspects Mary Lee of the crime. But why would Mary Lee want to kill Alice--or her own husband, for that matter? There's no time to find out because the county sheriff, Tommy Robinson--later elected to the US House of Representatives--becomes Mary Lee's advocate and co-conspirator, launching a witch hunt, a turf struggle among the cops, and a newspaper war the likes of which Little Rock has never seen. By the time author Lyons wraps up his presentation, McArthur is vindicated, Mary Lee is convicted, and a cast of thousands is quickly shuffled off stage and forgotten--all without the reader's having gleaned much insight into either the pathology of Mary Lee or the political forces that drove what basically seems to have been a farcical near-miscarriage of justice. A tangled web--but an empty one. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-64185-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993