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BOOK CASE by Stephen Greenleaf

BOOK CASE

By Stephen Greenleaf

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1990
ISBN: 688-07669-6
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

The search for the author of an anonymous novel leads shamus John Marshall Tanner (Grave Error, Toll Call, etc.) to an old accusation of rape, to the secrets of an exclusive San Francisco prep school, and finally to murder. Homage to Hammurabi, submitted to Bryce Chatterton's faltering Periwinkle Press, would be the salvation of the press, Marsh's old buddy Chatterton insists over the objections of his wife Margaret, if only Marsh could identify the author and get him to sign a contract. Marsh is sure that the novel--the story of a teacher imprisoned by a student's false accusation of rape--is based on fact, and it doesn't take him long to trace the scandal, via unwilling informants like fired soccer coach Emma Drayer and veggie concept artist Lily Lucerne, to the Sebastian School. The school's chairman, Marvin Gillis--Margaret's ex, her Sebastian alum daughter Jane Ann's father, and Emma's boss--is clearly at the heart of a cover-up that Jane Ann's boyfriend says is "right out of Kafka--nothing is as it seems; no one is unsullied; guilt and innocence are indeterminable." All right, Greenleaf is a little too indebted to Ross Macdonald's manner--the journey through a troubled past, the self-seriousness, the unerringly lucky guesses, the generous distribution of guilt--but he lightens up with some scenes Macdonald would never use: Marsh's visit to a lucky coupon-clipper and his attempt to disguise himself as a drifter. Twisty and absorbing but too windy for its loose plotting--not as good as Impact (1989), Greenleaf's legalistic sabbatical from Marsh.