TANGLE by Meg Elizabeth Atkins


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Inspector Henry Beaumont's third case (Palimpsest, 1982) unfurls amid wisps of ectoplasm called up by Madame Lily at her Avenridge sÉances--frequented by, on two occasions at least, bereaved young men who've lost their mums but come into a bit of money. Soon one such sonny is dead; and the other (Gilbert), ""epicene, myopic and incompetent,"" has become enthralled by mysterious girlfriend Vera, who brings him news from beyond and keeps heading him toward the Ridge, site of Mummy's ""suicide."" Induced to unofficially look into the first case by his char--whose neighbor Edith Blore was ignored in both of the wills of Arnold Peabody and his mum, while some hussy profited--Henry is soon steeped in his own personal history (that of a young wartime evacuee at the Dash home in Avenridge), while also trying to prevent the imminent murder of Gilbert, who is convinced mummy wants him. Now. Meanwhile, the psychological skulduggery being committed by the nubile, nefarious Vera; Henry's interactions with Dash daughter Emmeline (somewhat ethereal and wispy herself); the chocolate-guzzling Madame Lily; and Gilbert's cousin Wilfred, obviously ripe for a carefully planned-out seduction by someone skilled in the art--all are brilliantly evoked here. And the resolution, revealing adult indiscretions, and cruelties to a child bystander, is sound enough. More whydunit than whodunit, with an emphasis on characterization, rather than clues, red herrings, and the like. Elegantly written, however.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Marion Boyars--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)