In Webber’s debut crime novel, a murderous duo sets their sights on a young couple.
In 1950s Texas, Rodney and Ralph Anderson are identical twin brothers who con and kill people to get the easy life they want. Ralph often acts behind the scenes while Rodney uses his charm to seduce women. The brothers target married couple Bob Carter and Paula Askins after learning about Paula’s valuable Texas ranchland. They stage a car accident to take Bob out of the picture, and then Rodney, under an alias, marries and murders his widow. Ralph, meanwhile, provides him with an airtight alibi. The brothers plan to lay low for a while after their victory, but when Rodney overhears young executive Lloyd Caldwell saying in a diner that his wife, Anna, has inherited a fortune, the twins decide to move in on them. But as meticulously as the brothers plan their crimes, they haven’t planned on the tough, loyal women of Texas. This novel has the makings of an enjoyable thriller, but it has many technical problems. Some seem like common, rookie crime-writing mistakes, such as telegraphing plot twists, which saps much of their impact. It also uses unrealistic, too-convenient dialogue to provide information, as when Lloyd discusses the inheritance in the diner. There are also glaring instances of redundancy that slow the pace; for instance, Rodney is said to have “come to Bainbridge for Paula’s money after he had heard Paula’s husband bragging about her coming into big bucks,” just five pages after readers have already learned this information. That said, Webber offers both a solid plot and a great pair of villains. Her nuanced portrayals of Anna and of the community of women affected by the twins’ crimes raise the stakes and ensure readers’ emotional investment. It’s unfortunate that the storytelling itself doesn’t do justice to the plot and characters.
A cleverly conceived but clumsily executed thriller.