THE MURDERER NEXT DOOR by Rafael Yglesias

THE MURDERER NEXT DOOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Novelization of the murder of Diane Pikul by her Wall Street husband, a case also covered in Richard Pienciak's nonfiction Deadly Masquerade: A True Story of High Living, Depravity and Murder (see below). In Hot Properties (1986), Yglesias put Manhattan publishers on the spit and roasted them for their best-selleritis. Now, he capitalizes on a recent Greenwich Village murder only a tad less publicized than the Lisa Steinberg slaying. Remarkably, his dramatizing holds up well as a novel but is less gripping than the facts as reported by Pienciak. Pienciak's Diane and Joe Pikul simply had more weight, bite and wildness than Yglesias is willing to grant them as Wendy and Ben Fliess. And while his telescoping of the surrounding characters into a small handful may answer cinematic needs, what he leaves out is too powerful to be dismissed. In real life Joe Pikul had AIDS, the subject of his vilest arguments with Diane and second only to her disgust with his cross-dressing. He died of it in prison while awaiting a ruling on his appeal. In Yglesias, Ben Fliess, who is marginally less crazed than Joe, does not have AIDS, and his cross-dressing leads to a heterosexually charged climax that would have delighted James M. Cain. Diane too is watered down as Wendy; no longer the driven assistant to the publisher at Harper's magazine, she's in charge of the Special Education Program for all of Queens. Yglesias' greater strengths are in his characterization of Wendy's best friend, narrator Molly Weinstein, a young lawyer married to an all-knowing but affable shrink. Yglesias moves about in Molly's mind and body as if born to them, and his eye for cultural detail smartens each page. We believe in Molly's extraordinary love for Naomi, Wendy and Ben's small child, and in her drive to wrest Naomi from Ben, who, though a wife-murderer, retains custody. She attempts this by buttering up Ben, always taking his side, divorcing her own husband, and finally in bedding Ben. Clearly, Yglesias can't allow Ben to have AIDS unless his narrator speaks from her deathbed. Yglesias' best novel, a strong read though short on his usual laughs--and, overall, less dizzying and compelling than Deadly Masquerade.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 145320511X
Publisher: Crown