DEATH AND THE I CHING by Lulla Rosenfeld


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After some dandy opening chapters which seem to promise murder-comedy in a dark, witty mode, this mystery debut goes sadly downhill--and ends up as a talky, routine soap-opera/puzzle only somewhat redeemed by the hip Manhattan backgrounds. Sculptor Nick Armisen comes home to his West Village apartment at dawn one morning and discovers the body of Kenneth Stramm impaled on a large sculpture outside in the courtyard. It's soon apparent that Stramm--fiancÉ of fading stage star Letty Tilden (Nick's onetime love)--fell or was pushed during the mysterious pre-wedding party held at the apartment of Nick's upstairs neighbor, designer Bill Bacchus. Prime suspect: Letty's rebel son Keith, who's still angry over his father's suicide (or was it murder?) and who soon disappears. But when another guest from that same party is shot, the plot thickens and focuses more and more on Letty herself, who becomes very ill while trying out a Broadway play (turgid excerpts of which are included) in New Haven. And finally, after Letty dies, the partygoers come clean and tell exactly what did happen at the fatal party: no real surprise. Unconvincing theatrical atmosphere, and the I Ching stuff is strictly trendy padding--but if Rosenfeld can pick up more on the Village/artsy milieu (which provides the only bright, satiric moments here), she may have a future in the sophisticated mystery/comedy-of-manners genre.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1981
Publisher: Clarkson, Potter--dist. by Crown