TURNER'S WIFE by Norman Garbo


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When writer Paul Turner's adored wife Maria dies suddenly at an Embassy party (Maria's a famed, gorgeous radio-talk star), it seems to have been a heart attack. But then somebody tries to kill Paul, somebody steals Maria's office files, Paul finds a strange cache of cash and codes--so Paul, suspicious, turns to his long-estranged uncle, elegant gangster Herschel Turnovsky, for help. And they soon learn (via an al fresco autopsy) that Maria died of cyanide--something the police/FBI/CIA have done their best to cover up. What's going on? Well, at first it seems--when Paul finds microfilm stashes and meets CIA deputy chief Handley (Maria's secret lover)--that Maria was a KGB agent . . . and was killed (by Handley) in order to save the lives of US agents. Then it seems--after Paul talks to the US Prez himself (another Maria lover) and to a US agent in Lagos--that Maria was a double-agent working for the CIA, that Handley killed her because she opposed an excessively ruthless scheme of his. (""Jesus Christ! My wife is turning out to have been a goddamned CIA groupie."") But then, while Uncle Herschel tries to have Handley killed and brings on a lot more corpses, Paul at last discovers Maria's long farewell confession--which adds yet further predictable twists (""He was beginning to feel like a prisoner in a Chinese puzzle. . . . Where in God's name did the progression end?""). And finally there's a brutal showdown between super-evil Handley and super-noble Turner, who has (implausibly) acquired a devoted cop-sidekick along the way to the death-duel. . . which does have one nice fillip at its very end. As in Spy (1980), Garbo undermines this serviceable thriller-plotting with verbose sentimentality--and slows down the action (Spy at least was fast) with Turner's two post-Maria romances, flashbacks to his Vietnam ordeals, and earnest assorted musings. Still, though farfetched and nearly twice as long as it needed to be, with a dullishly obsessed hero: a sturdy, violent cross between a vengeance-novel and a spy-spouse-disillusionment thriller (cf. Reginald Hill's The Spy's Wife and many others).

Pub Date: April 25th, 1983
Publisher: Norton