THE DEATH TAPE by Kate Gallison


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More far-fetched and less black-comically inspired than Unbalanced Accounts (1986), this second outing for semi-employed New Jersey detective Nick Magaracz--now working for the State Tax Dept.--is oddly diverting nonetheless, with its dry, droll mixture of wild slapstick villainy and drab Trenton-area sleuthing. The ""death tape"" is Nick's new assignment at the Bureau of Tax Enforcement: a list of dead people who had over $25,000 in the bank--and whose heirs may have cheated on their inheritance tax. What about, for instance, the late Gilmore Nash, who had $130,000 (now vanished) when he died of a premature heart-attack at the Bosnian-American Social Club? Well, Nick's suspicions about Nash (a ne'er-do-well right-wing psycho) soon reach beyond tax fraud--to enigmatic Dr. Herman Eckes, the Social Club president who signed Nash's death certificate. Could it be that Eckes is using the Club as a front for radical-right terrorism? Could it be that he's braiding a secret mini-army out of men whose deaths have been faked? It could indeed. And the ensuing pinwheel-action includes the haunting of Nash's nice ""widow"" by her late, unlamented husband, the kidnapping of elderly Bosnian ladies (who fight back superbly), a shootout between the bad guys and the FBI. . .and Nick's attempts to prevent wacko Nash from blowing up much of downtown Trenton. Frenetic thriller-farce, without the convincing character/office close-ups that made Unbalanced Accounts so endearing--but lean, classy, and quirky enough to snare some of the sophisticated mystery-comedy audience.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1987
Publisher: Little, Brown