THE END OF THE PIER by Martha Grimes


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Something completely different from the author of the popular, ever-so-British Inspector Jury mysteries (The Old Contemptibles, etc.). This time the setting is small-town America, the mystery is secondary (a psycho serial-killer of sporadic interest), and the emphasis instead is on earnest character-studies that never quite add up. The primary character under scrutiny is Maud Chadwick, a divorcee in her late 40s who works as a diner waitress in sleepy La Porte, a town somewhere considerably "up north" from N.Y.C. Maud, dreamy and depressed, spends her free time obsessing about son Chad, 20, whose increasing adult-ness and separate-ness devastate her. She whiles away her summer evenings sitting at the end of her backyard pier--fantasizing about the rich summerfolk who party across the lake, puzzling over Wallace Stevens's poetry, and chatting (edgily yet amiably) with La Porte's sheriff, Sam DeGheyn, himself lonely in his lousy marriage to unfaithful Florence. Sam, meanwhile, has his own obsession: the savage murders of four local "loose women" over the past few years, crimes not solved to Sam's satisfaction (despite the conviction of young "Boy" Chalmers for some of the killings). And indeed Grimes introduces us, without naming names, to the real psycho-killer, through run-of-the-mill interior monologues. She also interjects--with far less coherence--a long episode in which young Chad visits the stately home of a decadent college-pal and gets entangled in the family's glitzy, dreary pathology. (This section reads like a watery American imitation of Brideshead Revisited.) At its best, atmospheric psychological suspense reminiscent of L.R. Wright. At its worst, a pretentious mishmash: though linked by a theme (parent-child relationships), the pieces don't fit satisfyingly together--and Maud's ultra-sensitivity has limited appeal. Still, Grimes writes fetchingly at times, has a large following (much of which will be plenty disappointed), and a first printing of 100,000 copies is planned.
Pub Date: April 14th, 1992
ISBN: 0345376579
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992


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