THE TRAGEDY AT TIVERTON by Raymond Paul

THE TRAGEDY AT TIVERTON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Unlike Mary Cable's fitfully haunting Avery's Knot (1981), which turned the famous true-crime-tale of Sarah Maria Cornell into a dark feminist fable, this sequel to The Thomas Street Horror (1982) is another playful fact/fiction mix--dressing up the Cornell murder as a Perry Mason-ish courtroom puzzle. Again, the not-very appealing narrator is an 1830s protÉgÉ of Irish super-lawyer Lon Quinncannon: this time it's young attorney Christy Randolph. Again, the novel's first half is mostly padding--as Christy recounts his meeting-up with Quinncannon (a sort of Rumpole manquÉ) in N.Y., his seduction of proper Amy Wrenn, their eventual marriage (after melodramatic doings at an abortion mill). And only then, with Christy and Amy transplanted to Rhode Island, does the case of millworker Sarah Cornell take center-stage: her hanged, bruised, pregnant body is discovered--and the obvious suspect is Rev. Ephraim Avery, a Methodist preacher who seems to have been involved in a lust/hate relationship with unstable camp-meeting-follower Sarah. Quinncannon (to Christy's dismay) argues, with some success, that Sarah committed suicide. But when Avery's case nevertheless goes to trial, Quinncannon then sets out to prove that Sarah was indeed murdered, but not by Avery: the real culprit's ""classic little murder plot"" is elaborately uncovered, complete with violent courtroom histrionics. True-crime fans who prefer atmosphere, psychology, and quiet credibility will, as before, find Paul's stagey approach far from satisfying. On the other hand, those who enjoyed The Thomas Street Horror won't be disappointed by this long, mildly amusing follow-up--which features cross-examination galore, much-debated clues, and lots of hard-working (if flat) period detail.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Viking