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THE FAT MAN by Maurice Gee

THE FAT MAN

By Maurice Gee

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-689-81182-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 In an ugly, menacing psycho-thriller set in Depression-era New Zealand, a man returns to his small town to repay the bullies who sent him fleeing 13 years before. Herbert Muskie appears suddenly in Loomis, with overflowing pockets, wild tales of rum-running in the US, and a new wife and stepdaughter. His outward geniality conceals a sadistic talent for cutting through people's defenses, and he quickly proves himself a master of both violent and subtle intimidation. Only a few months earlier, Colin Potter was terrorized into helping Muskie rob his senile mother of her life savings, but he doesn't dare tell his parents, who were among the man's tormentors years before. Gee (The Champion, 1993, etc.) tightens the screws expertly: Strong, cunning, and unbalanced, Muskie is thoroughly frightening and increasingly given to bursts of brutal irrationality. When he snatches his stepdaughter and Colin as hostages after police discover that he's been burglarizing houses in nearby Auckland, even hardened Cormier readers will stop breathing. Colin shows steel beneath his rabbity exterior, ``helping'' Muskie to his doom over a deep gorge, but even in death the fat man has his revenge, leaving nearly everyone he's touched damaged in some way. Sobering and scary. (Fiction. 12-15)