OBSESSIONS by Leonard St. Clair


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Very professional Mr. St. Clair (The Emerald Trap, The Seadon Fortune) starts out with a strong, historically juicy, suspense-revenge framework here--but then he rather lazily, loosely fills it in with coincidence, faceless characters, and hand-me-down situations from rich-people saga/romances. That initial premise so full of potential: in 1918 low-born young railwayman Yuri Solenko, a big ape of a fellow, is sent by the new regime to help ""guard"" the Royal Family in Siberia--and, after Solenko has taken part in the execution of all the Romanovs, he finds scads of jewels on the bodies and escapes with his new fortune to Shanghai. The other half of the framework: Russian emigrÉ Ted Brullov, a FabergÉ-trained jeweler established in N.Y. in the 1920s, vows to kill all those involved in the murders of the Tsar's family (he loved Princess Tatiana). And the tension remains high in the first few chapters--as Solenko kills to protect his new identity (he becomes Orsino di Ascoli, mysterious tycoon) while Ted follows through on his vow with one dandy revenge killing in London (cyanide poured, à la Borgia, into a hole in the victim's shoe!). But soon St. Clair is concentrating on Ted's uninteresting son Tony and on Tony's on-and-off (1940s, 1950s) love for movie-star Erin Deering--blandly familiar filler that even includes such chestnuts as ""I won't be Mr. Erin Deering"" (Tony) and ""At least there's one love that will never desert me. . . I'll always have my audience"" (Erin). True, this romance eventually links up to the original plot when ambitious Tony leaves Erin for beautiful, bisexually decadent heiress Lisa (daughter of Solenko/di Ascoli!) and when Erin herself vows, largely out of hatred for Lisa, to wed Lisa's still-virile papa. But too late, alas: the original grab has been lost, and it can't be recovered even when the Brullovs find a clue to Solenko's current identity or when Tony, after Ted is killed, learns di Ascoli's secret and resolves to finish his dad's revenge. (He'll blow up the di Ascoli yacht on the eve of Erin's 1958 wedding and conveniently knock off Lisa too.) Readable, respectable, jewelglittered entertainment, clichÉd lapses notwithstanding--but one can't help feeling that St. Clair missed out on a truly riveting thriller by settling for a pleasantly sloppy mixture of commercial genres.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster