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 From poet and short-story writer Wilson (Dancing for Men; Living Alone; Terrible Kisses), a first novel that tries for psychological depth but, in this longer form, lingers on the shoals of formula instead. As luck would have it, Melissa Allen's divorced father is murdered in his house on the very night that Melissa comes home for her 15th high-school reunion in the small town of Scoggin, Maine-- to discover her father, in his study, with his skull caved in. This isn't Melissa's first acquaintance with violence and blood. At age 15, she had an abortion (to her it was murder); her own husband, a deranged Vietnam vet, became a particularly grisly suicide; and now she is witness to her father's brutally spilled blood. What Melissa doesn't know is that her parents divorced because her father came out of the closet, or that her father since then has been entertaining young schoolboys regularly in his bedroom. Was he murdered, then, by the ex-boxer and ne'er-do-well the local cops want to pin the crime on, with a motive of robbery; or was he in fact murdered by the morally outraged father of one of the seduced and sodomized boys--by the same man (now a doctor) who got Melissa pregnant back when she was 15, whose own wife is recently dead of cancer, and in whose bed Melissa now picks things up more or less where they were left off years before? Moral complexities and overtones are bullied aside as Melissa pinballs between the rather staged and public-issue-drenched symmetries of her past and her present. Meanwhile, sent from the state attorney general's office to help investigate the murder is the divorced, world-weary, heavy- smoking Inspector Willard Strand, whose 60-year-old heart is awakened to new possibilities by his willing and bright assistant, the blond, fit, shapely 38-year-old Eleanor. In all, small-town melodrama on an occasionally vivid but generally hyper-familiar stage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-72618-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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