OLD MONEY by Lacey Fosburgh


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This first novel by the journalist-author of Closing Time (1977) begins powerfully: alcoholic Rushing Boarchards, 60-year-old writer/outdoorsman and an heir to the Rushing fortune, kills himself on the family's upstate-N.Y, estate; and when his loving daughter Abigail, a photo-journalist, arrives for the funeral, she's quickly assaulted on all sides--by kinfolk who snub her, by recent letters in her father's files about her (""'Somehow I've produced a monster,' he wrote""), and by a new will that utterly disinherits her. What happened to turn Abigail's father against her? That's the immediate grab here. Unfortunately, however, the investigation that follows is disappointingly slow and repetitious, marked by flickers of melodrama and psychology that never acquire much momentum or depth. With three months to decide whether or not to contest the will, Abigail hires a private-detective to research Rushing's past, concentrating on a few particular clues. Why did Rushing pay a mysterious man named Joe Algodones $1 million in small amounts over the past 30 years? Why did Rushing's hatred for Abigail seem to begin about four years back, when a psychotic killer was captured on the Rushing family estate? (Abigail's photo of the captured fugitive made her famous.) Was handsome war-hero Rushing, as rumored, really in love long ago with filmstar Melanie Anderson? And meanwhile Abigail recalls family relationships; she reads her father's war/outdoors books (strikingly similar to those actually written by Fosburgh's father Hugh, who died in 1976); she has a series of family/friend showdowns that don't quite catch fire; she returns to the family estate, fails in love with her father's young lawyer, and finally comes face to face with crazy Joe Algodones--whose odd threats have provided halfhearted glimmers of suspense. But this longwinded quest produces only murky answers to the puzzle: some guilt-laden secrets about Rushing's WW II exploits; some notions about the burdens of Old Money. Nor does Abigail's predictable decision--now free of the Family shadow, she won't contest the will--seem worth all that stewing and sleuthing. With firm editorial guidance, then, this might have been an effective short novel. As it is, it's a 432-page muddle--often well-written, affecting when simplest, but overblown and sluggishly paced in its apparent attempt to turn a small family story into something big and busy.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday