AT MOTHER'S REQUEST: A True Story of Money, Murder and Betrayal by Jonathan Coleman

AT MOTHER'S REQUEST: A True Story of Money, Murder and Betrayal

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Solidly compacted Dostoevskian spellbinder about a gruesome family murder in which the victim, Utah multimillionaire Franklin Bradshaw, is shot dead by his grandson at the request of the victim's daughter, Frances Schreuder, socialite, board member of the New York City Ballet and the murderer's mother. Bradshaw and vivacious Berenice Jewett eloped on Halloween Day1924, soon found themselves struggling for every penny. During the Depression, while Berenice had a son and three daughters, Franklin entered the auto parts business and for the rest of his life worked seven days a week from dawn to late at night, with not a minute to spare for his family. The more wealth he amassed, the more he had to amass (he never went to his daughters' weddings) while Berenice began having nervous breakdowns alone home with the kids. All four kids were ""narcissistically deprived"" and given to raging frustration: until he was five, baby son Robert could get attention only by running away from home or literally being tortured into toilet training--eventually he became a lobotomized epileptic vegetable, after battling physically with his father and being all-consumed by his failure to carry on the family name in business. As a child, youngest daughter Frances (Berenice's ""golden idol"" to whom she is ""emotionally addicted"") entered into a sociopathic career of lying, cheating and manipulating that eventually crystallized into guiding her own schizophrenic son Marc into murdering grandpa for his money. Franklin at 76 clearly planned to live forever and was still doing 100 pushups daily before getting to the office at break of dawn. So early one Sunday morning, when they're alone at the office, Marc blasts him in the back and head. Some think Berenice is as much to blame as Frances, and Coleman describes it as an Oedipus complex in reverse in which ""Frances had to kill her father to safeguard her uneasy marriage to Berenice."" Rich as a novel, this horror epic is a psychiatric snake pit, turning on Berenice's guilt over not caring enough for her children and Frances' brilliant ability to exploit that guilt (Berenice encourages Frances to forge checks, and Frances encourages Marc, as long as he doesn't get caught). Focusing on Mormon Utah, the story leaps from prep schools to colleges and from Texas to Europe and California to Manhattan. As greatly as it deserves to keep company with Capote's In Cold Blood and Mailer's The Executioner's Song, it is sure to grip intellectuals for its textbook Oedipal dramaturgy.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum