BACHMAN'S LAW by Richard Thorman


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Semi-mysterious, rather unlikely (and ultimately clichÉd) doings in an upstate-N.Y. small town--as youngish lawyer Emmet Bachman tries to figure out why his client Patsy Accata, a local small-time hood and pusher, has turned up overdose-dead. . . and why penniless Patsy left behind a ludicrous will, with huge pseudo-bequests to various town notables. Emmet's casual investigations lead him to town hall and the local country club, to Patsy's seedy family, and above all to hot divorcee Mina Bogard--who supposedly was Patsy's lover (along with a homosexual cop) and definitely becomes Emmet's (when the acerbic Mrs. Bachman takes little son Marlin and leaves town). But even as this sleuthing/sex/marital mishmash continues, Emmet's real inner concentration is on his relationship with his father: great old lawyer Joe, now a semi-retired stroke victim, but still a forceful, irascibly lovable tyrant who shadows Emmet's life. Most readers will not be surprised, then, when it turns out that leading citizen Joe Bachman himself is at the rotten core of the Patsy Accata mystery: Joe needed drugs to ease his pain (an amputated hand) and became one of Patsy's drug-client/blackmail-victims among the corrupt town elite. So, after Joe dies, Emmet will finally be released from the paternal grip (in an arch imaginary dialogue between Emmet and dead Joe), and he ends up taking a sledgehammer to his father's house. True, Emmet isn't the only one with a sledgehammer here: the father-son scenario is crude, contrived, and hackneyed. And the town mysteries aren't very mysterious. But first-novelist Thorman writes with attractive crispness (except for an annoying mannerism involving sentences that start with verbs), and his affectionate/satiric feel for small-town life is often delivered in tangy dialogue and neat, eccentric characterizations; so, if he can find a less contrived plot and avoid the pitfalls of stagy psychology in the future, there may be some quietly engaging novels to come.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1981
Publisher: Norton