LIMELIGHT by Terence Feely


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The rags-to-riches rise of Tara Stewart, the Barbara Walters/Geraldo Rivera of Liverpool-Manchester TV--in a serviceable British pop-novel that begins with distinctive grit, then slides into contrived romance/revenge melodrama (seemingly modeled on Sidney Sheldon). Poor, gorgeous, teenaged Tara--who lives in a Merseyside slum with drunken Auntie and two cheerfully cloddish brothers--starts out in the mailroom of Alhambra Television. Soon, with a little guile and a lot of smarts, she's Production Assistant to documentary-producer Paul Crammer--using her underworld connections to help Paul get the investigative goods on assorted local scams. Her underworld connections? Yes indeed: Tara's semi-secret is that her father is Jed Stewart, a biggie in Liverpool's crime-world (""The Mystery"") who then went straight--but was framed, by ex-crony Shaun Patterson, for the huge Mersey Tunnel robbery back in 1973. So, as Tara moves on and upward, getting her own show (Tara Stewart--Public Eye), her hidden agenda is to clear her imprisoned papa's name, gather evidence of the frame-up, and destroy the evil Patterson--who has now (with the robbery proceeds) become a classy, bigtime tycoon/philanthropist. But who, pray tell, will Tara--after a chummy, low-key affair with Paul--just happen to fall madly in love with? (""They lay back, gasping from the fulfilment of a sensual dream."") Patterson's handsome son Michael, of course--who doesn't know what a nasty his dad really is. Thus, there'll be plenty of complications ahead: Tara, though sleeping with two other suitors along the way, can't stay away from Michael yet feels guilty about using him in her vengeance plans; when Tara's TV-show (""a national institution"") zeroes in on several of Patterson's henchmen, the villain tries to ruin, then murder, superstar Tara; and the escalating back-and-forth of blackmail and violence will result in quite a few casualties before Tara exposes the bad-guys (including the shadowy mastermind behind Patterson), frees her father. . . and moves toward a renewal of romance with bitter Michael. Some of Tara's tricky TV-muckraking (entrapment schemes that go far beyond 60 Minutes) is heavily implausible--and her character goes from tartly Liverpudlian to standard-super-heroine as the plot sinks into predictable formula. But, with some decent backstage detailing and a jaunty supporting cast (Tara's motley support-team, crazed Auntie Rita), this is a relatively bright and likable re-run of a reliable scenario--at its best when the Liverpool accent is strongest.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow