BETTER OFF DEAD by Mary McMullen


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McMullen in good form--with the story of John Swain, 50-ish painter on the brink of international fame, and his elegant dealer Adrian De Lima: together they concoct a death at sea for Swain--who's to be miraculously found a year later, with recovered memory and a new fortune in escalated picture prices. But, though Swain's cool mistress Maggie is part of the scheme, others get suspicious about the Swain death-and-resurrection: Maggie's bitter ex-husband Matt; her urbane songwriter nephew Sam; Swain's long-estranged daughter Johanna; and. . .sweetly rapacious Alice Smith, an illegitimate Swain daughter with an avid interest in the six-figure prices now being fetched by Swain's paintings. Thus, the carefully constructed scare begins to fall apart--and so does the suave De Lima, with disastrous results for some, delicious ones for others. An essentially familiar notion--but, except for an irritating dependence on coincidence to move things along, McMullen works it up into her usual, reliable mixture of suspense, romance, lively pace, and vivid characters.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday