A MORTAL AFFAIR by Stella Allan


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Allan (An Inside Job, 1978) again weakens a tenuous knot of British-style domestic suspense with jolts of unconvincing purple passion. The lady who goes all quivery this time is efficient, cool Frances Parry, whose mother-dominated gynecologist husband Duncan is sent off to prison after performing an illegal (and fatal) abortion on his pregnant mistress; once he's gone, Frances instantly goes ape over Duncan's lawyer and best chum Bernard--""joyously she assisted his violent entry and the world exploded and went mad."" And this infatuation persists even when Frances discovers that suave Bernard is a thorough scoundrel: he has embezzled Duncan's savings and for years he has been blackmailing Duncan's sweet father, Sir Alistair, over Duncan's involvement in a tragic homosexual liaison at Cambridge. But when Sir A. reaches his breaking point and shoots Bernard, Frances shakes off her grief (which ""spread downward to her stomach in a reflex arc of pain, twisting her gut nauseously"") and helps to contrive a complex alibi for her dear father-in-law. The cops break the alibi, Sir A. does a noble suicide, Frances is cleared--and she's finally free of wishy-washy Duncan, who has decided to come out of the closet and settle down with a prison mate. Too much abnormal psychology--and heavy breathing--for such a thin scenario; so Allan has again come up with an initially intriguing, ultimately uneven tale with (as in Inside Job) a strangely unengaging heroine.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Scribners