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A colossus of a case-into-book makes its bid for the Compulsion-- Anatomy market and while the crime itself generates some interest, much of it is lost in the wild growth of words with which the story is followed. The scene is California, Alta Vista, during the early Depression, where a local group, the Knights of Vigilance, is operative and directed, or misdirected, for the most part by a lawyer, Nevins, whose private taste and talent for evil (incest with his daughter of thirteen, etc.) is well camouflaged by his public presence. To grossly simplify the story, it deals with his acolyte, Matt Shelley, whose closest friend Mills Starr, an habitue of the local gambling house, is kidnapped, and whose father, a wealthy department store owner, receives a $50,000 ransom demand. Although Starr has actually been murdered, there is no knowledge of the fact and the case follows the crackpot calls which victimize the family, the communiques from the kidnappers as they attempt to arrange a transfer, their discovery, confession, and then Nevins' move to get his ministers of vengeance to lynch the jailed offenders. At this point Matt, who has been sexually involved with Nevins' daughter, more romantically with Mills Starr's sister, disengages himself from Nevins and the group... Although the book runs to close to 800 pages, Conot sometimes writes in a kind of abridged journalese, skipping pronouns and articles, while at other times he is tumidly unintelligible: ""Matt stares at crablike men and manlike saurians fuchsine in electric light"". There's lots more to choose from.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1964
Publisher: ippincott