SUSPECTS by Thomas Berger


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 Berger takes on the suburban police novel in his latest deadpan deconstruction. Frustrated and tantalized when the patrolmen she's called out to investigate her neighbor's failure to answer the phone or the doorbell leave without doing anything but ringing the bell themselves, placidly nosey Mary Jane Jones lets herself in the back door and discovers Donna Howland and her daughter Amanda, three, both murdered. Shocked Larry Howland returns from a business trip to find himself a widower. It isn't long, though, before the police find that he's never left town; he's been enjoying his latest stint in the Starry Night Motel, accompanied by garish decor, adult videos, and his boss's wife. But Officers Nick Moody and Dennis LeBeau soon give up on him as a suspect and focus on his shiftless half-brother Lloyd, who'd been having an unnervingly bad day, revealed in a series of merciless crosscuts, even before the cops started looking for him. Lloyd had broken his shaver, gotten fired from still another job, angered his boss into lodging a complaint against him, gotten pinched attempting to steal a rubber duckie from the local five-and-ten, and walked into a liquor store determined to rob it--only to stumble on the bloody aftermath of an earlier robbery. In anyone else's hands such elaborate forebodings would be the stuff of melodrama, but master parodist Berger piles up detail on detail with such cool detachment that the whole lurid whodunit recedes into the distance, as if you were watching it through the wrong end of a telescope. What emerges in its place is a crazy quilt of subplots--Lloyd's adventures with trucker Molly Sparks, the growing friction between Moody and LeBeau, and an insultingly inconsequential solution to the mystery--whose lack of connection gives the tale a gravely comic tone. Not the most successful of Berger's enigmatic sendups; as in Robert Crews (1994), fans of the genre under dissection are more likely to be bemused than enlightened.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-688-11925-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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