ELMER by Gerard Menuhin


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A debut novelist's erratic yet mildly engaging attempt to blend suspense and add black humor in this overly talky mordant thriller. From the high-speed start, when professional assassin Elmer Hampden guns down three motorcyclists, it's clear that the author can write mean, lean prose--sometimes. The plot skims along as Angle Troutbeck, a lesbian newspaperwoman in search of the Big Story, tracks Elmer across Europe, finally identifying him after his sloppy killing of a religious demagogue modeled closely on the Rev. Moon. Angie confronts Elmer at his Swiss chateau--and from here on, the narrative unravels into a tangled skein of dull philosophical discussions and unconvincing plot twists. Within 24 hours, Elmer, who has previously treated women like chattel, falls head over heels for Angie; she discards her sexual preferences and reciprocates, although she passes on sleeping with Elmer in favor of debating his assassin's creed of the necessity to kill the untidy and deranged in order to preserve cosmic order. Their platonic affair is interrupted by the intrusion of Hector Berthould of the Surete, whose dogged pursuit of Elmer forces the assassin to fake his own murder and disappear. Several months later, Elmer appears in Angie's office. That night the two finally roll in the hay together, but Berthould, who has been bugging Angie's office, returns to hound Elmer--until, in the confused and cluttered conclusion, Elmer kills his boss in the assassination racket, foils Berthould for good, drops Angle, and joins a monastic order. Taut action-writing and strong protagonists spoiled by a papier-machÉ supporting cast and a storyline more nonsensical than caustic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Century Hutchinson--dist. by David & Charles