THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY
Don't get your hopes up, fans of The Riverside Villas Murder (1973). This second Amis mystery, originally published as a 1975 serial in London's Sunday Times, has little in common with the classic plotting and sophisticated charm of Villas. Instead, Amis offers a far-fetched mishmash--often slipping over into parody--of hoary thriller devices: criminal masterminds, cross-country manhunts, and a committee of super-sleuths (one of whom might just be the psycho-villain!). A serial killer is loose in London, knifing women and leaving the letters "S. . .O. . .U" pinned to their clothes. A maniac? Or a crafty ABC Murders imitator? Or. . .? The Ministry of Domestic Affairs sets up a special committee to investigate, a bizarre group of contrasting types: law-and-order fanatic Fergus MacBean, M.P.; radical sociologist Marcus Varga; lordly criminal lawyer Neil Costello; blocked crime-novelist Christopher Dane; activist rock-star Benedict Royal; plus a psychiatrist, a pathologist, and reps from Scotland Yard. At first, the committee seems ready to believe that a terrorist/blackmail group, the British Liberation Army, is behind all the mayhem. Then a disturbed fellow with amnesia confesses to the crimes. But one by one the sleuths become convinced that the evil genius is actually. . .one of them. Sporadically entertaining--with occasional Amis drolleries--but too episodic, arbitrary, and just-plain-silly to sustain interest.