VORTEX by Jon Cleary


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Australian Cleary has managed to complicate the American mystery-novel form without really improving it. Here he takes a rather plain who-dun-it about the richest family in a small Missouri town named Friendship and gives it a green icing borrowed from the disaster-novel formula (tornado subgenre)--to try to lend it the suspense and final punch it lacks as a mystery. Police Chief Jim McKechnie, investigating a farmhouse destroyed by a mini-tornado, finds the body of wealthy Molly Farquhar--she's dead, not from the wind, but from a bullet in her temple. A murdered adulteress! (or suicide?) And three months pregnant. . . . But this whole day is pregnant, since there is a tornado alert (this novel is not named Vortex for nothing), and Molly's sister-in-law Rose is dying of cancer at home today and is being secretly visited by her billionaire lover, Vice President Vandenhorn (read: Rocky). When someone takes a shot at Rose's house, Chief McKechnie finds himself acting in place of the Secret Service in guarding Vandenhorn while getting to the incestuous bottom of the murder case, chasing two bank robbers (a red herring for spice), and preparing the town for the Big Wind which hits on schedule. Busy, busy, and strictly by the numbers, but hacked out with professional aplomb.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1978
Publisher: Morrow