THE HAWK by Peter Ransley


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An awkwardly plotted first novel--by a British film and TV writer--about an English housewife's growing suspicion that her husband is a Ripper-like killer, the Hawk. Ransley does, however, offer some acute glimpses of tensions within the British lower-middle class. Who's the fiend killing and mutilating prostitutes in the Leeds area? All of England--inclusing plain, nervous (twice-institutionalized), and bright Annie Marsh--wants to know; but Annie has other things on her mind, too. Christmas dinner, for one, which is veering towards disaster, with family bonds threatening to snap under the malicious tugs of Annie's mother-in-law. Husband Stephen's good humor saves the day, though, and Annie feels a burst of love for this near-illiterate but mechanically talented man who years ago (as shown in extensive flashback) saved her from an old maid's fate. Still, she can't help noticing that Stephen's out of town on business every time the Hawk strikes--and that his hammer, weapon of the Hawk, is missing. Stephen picks up on her fear and bluntly denies any wrongdoing; meanwhile, a mixed-class dinner party at an old pal's house turns sour, with Stephen drinking too much. Annie's fear, since muted, grows again when Stephen takes her to his favorite pub and she sees the low-lifes--prostitutes, drunkards--that he boisterously hangs out with. Losing all trust in him, she goes to the police; but they, after learning of her history of mental illness, dismiss her fears--until Stephen, in a fit, tries to strangle Annie after she accuses him of infidelity, and she later--in self-defense? it takes a trial to find out-picks up a knife, just like the Hawk. . . Mediocre as a thriller--poorly paced, with little suspense and clumsy shifts in point-of-view--but with flesh-and-blood characters and a keen sense of the hard, tight lives of Britain's lower classes, not bad as a psychosociological portrait.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking