THE MAN WHO OWNED NEW YORK by

THE MAN WHO OWNED NEW YORK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Osborn (The Associates) is to be admired for trying something a bit different this time: though there's poshly detailed mystery and comedy here, his focus is less on legal shenanigans and lawyerly foibles than on the nervous breakdown of his hero--36-year-old Robert Fox, junior partner at the Wall St. firm of Castle & Lovett. ""What went wrong? Why do I live a life in which I don't have photos?"" So wonders increasingly zombie-like Fox--whose career seems dead-ended (likewise his affair with gorgeous, marriage-shy, 40-year-old art appraiser Kim) and whose latest case is a pain: there's $3 million missing from the estate of the late Mrs. Sifford, so Fox has to find out where it went. Did ancient Mrs. Sifford's slightly younger husband--who vanished 13 years ago--make off with the dough? Or was it stolen by Mrs. Sifford's hired companion, a now-crazed and terminally ill multi-millionaire whose fortune was made from a $3 million real estate investment? And what's the involvement of crude, reclusive real-estate king Marsiglia (""the man who owns New York""), whose father is a Sifford old-family-retainer? With dogged help from over-achieving associate Jackson, Fox does retrieve the $3 million by digging up 13-year-old secrets: adultery, murder, coverup, and a bank scare (the key witness is a madman to whom bedraggled Jackson must play keeper). But the novel's real intended climax isn't the exposÉ (or its black-comic, violent aftermath), but rather the death of Fox's beloved, senile mentor Gauder--which triggers a sort of instant psychoanalysis: ""All of it poured out in one surging huge wave, drenching Fox, blasting him, Gauder, Father, Mother. . . . All the deep places in Fox's childhood, arguments with his father that not even the best shrink could have ever gotten out of Fox. They swept through him. . . ."" This casual mixing of tones--outer and inner mystery, light social comedy and heavily personal angst--is a promising notion; and some of the more serious strands (the relationships with Gauder and Jackson) do weave through affectingly. Unfortunately, however, Fox's central hangups remain vague (the Father problem pops up almost out of nowhere); and the romance with Kim--which finally does lead to long-range commitment--is as artificial as the romances in Osborn's other books, again featuring an overdrawn, abrasive/kooky woman who wipes the bland hero right off the page. Less funny and trendy than The Associates, more ambitious and uneven; but the good moments here are good and plentiful enough to see Osborn's fans through the unconvincing psychological ups and downs.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin