Festering resentment among the Florida Gulf Coast’s smart set, with violence obbligato.
For many years, restaurateur Charlie Brompton’s planned to leave his considerable landholdings to his cousin and boyhood friend, retired attorney Peter Cullen. But Peter ups and dies shortly after writing a letter to Charlie asking him not to make Peter’s weak-willed son Chaz, Charlie’s only living relative, his heir—a letter that’s now fallen into the hands of Chaz and his bride, grasping ex-actress Sydney Baird, who’s determined to get her hands on Charlie’s wealth by hook or by crook. As Charlie’s old friend, recently bereaved schoolteacher Hudson DeForest, ballasts the rising action by editing a collection of his film reviews, several of which are reprinted at too-generous length, Sydney and Chaz team up with Charlie’s tainted employee Terry Main to find a hit man who’ll rub Charlie out. The result is a curious hybrid of Golden Age wisdom-mongering and incongruous felony, as the heavily metaphorical reflectiveness of the leading characters and maturity of the prose, which suggests a slowly gathering summer storm, battle it out with religious zealots from another section of the bookstore.
Hury is no Henry James, and the two halves of this ambitious debut cancel each other out, as if Kate Croy and Merton Densher had decided to speed up The Wings of the Dove by hiring somebody to waste Milly Theale.