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PAPER PHOENIX by Mickey Friedman



Pub Date: April 2nd, 1986
Publisher: Dutton

Dumped by her husband Richard after 20+ years of marriage, Maggie Longstreet, 44, goes into a long, deep depression--until she reads about the ""apparent suicide"" (a window-fall) of Larry Hawkins, editor-publisher of the People's Times, San Francisco's top antiestablishment weekly newspaper (circa 1975). Why does this perk Maggie up? Because she recalls overhearing Richard (a rising S.F. politico) making dark remarks--e.g., ""we won't have to worry about him much longer""--about muckraker Hawkins! Could it be that Hawkins was murdered? That loathsome Richard had something to do with it? Energized by this possibility, a vengeful Maggie starts some amateurish sleuthing--talking to Hawkins' widow, to his young partner Andrew Baffrey. And, indeed, it soon appears that Hawkins was working on an exposÉ of city corruption involving Richard. But what about Hawkins' sideline in blackmail--and his flagrant womanizing? What about the thugs who keep threatening Maggie? What about the subsequent murder of a local pizza-parlor king? Maggie remains understandably confused, and fairly frazzled, through most of this light mystery/action hybrid; she's especially unsettled by the onset of an affair with her sleuthing sidekick--25-year-old Andrew. (""Perhaps it was an appalling act I could live with. Didn't Colette write a novel about something like this?"") And though the windup is a letdown, Friedman's third thriller (following the first-class Hurricane Season, the disappointing The Fault Tree) is a modestly amusing, brightly paced diversion--with solid San Francisco atmosphere, savvy glimpses of 1970's underground journalism, and a tart, appealing, even occasionally touching narrator-heroine.